New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Star boxer Vijender Singh defeated Kerry Hope of Australia in a hard-fought bout to win the WBO Asia/Pacific Middleweight title at the Thyagraj Stadium here on Saturday evening.
Faced with the most experienced and highly-rated opponent of his fledgling professional career, Vijender carved out a 98-92, 98-92, 100-90 verdict from the three judges to extend his record to seven wins from as many fights.
Despite the unanimous decision, it was far from easy for Vijender in the first 10-round bout of his career.
The Australian exhibited superior technique and footwork for most of the fight although the Indian was the more powerful boxer.
"Thank you India! I didn't expect it to go to ten rounds. It is all to my country, not about me! We have been working hard for this. Finally we did it and we will work to improve my ranking now," Vijender said after the bout.
"This win is special. This is for my country, for my India. I am now ranked 15th in the world," he added.
"This was my first 10 round fight. I was surprised by how my body responded," he added.
Both boxers were a bit cagey in the opening round, trying to gauge each other. Vijender did manage to penetrate his opponent's defence once with a powerful blow that clearly shook up the Australian.
The second round clearly belonged to Vijender. He made good use of his long reach to evade Hope's punches while going for power-packed body shots.
Hope did better in the third round, and managed to penetrate Vijender's defence a couple of times with his fast right jabs.
The Australian gradually started to improve as the bout wore on, repeatedly outfoxing Vijender with his superior footwork and movement.
He dominated the fourth and fifth rounds and although Vijender managed to land a few solid blows of his own, the local favourite was clearly having the worse of it.
The Indian managed to put Hope in trouble towards the end of the sixth round, with a couple of bodyshots and a jab to the face.
The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist seemed to tire a bit as the fight wore on. Hope continued to move around with speed and vigour, exhibiting impressive technique and footwork while Vijender was comparatively less mobile in the later rounds, relying more on his power to counter his opponent.
But despite taking some hits to his body, he managed to hold his own till the end.
Earlier, in the other significant fight of the night, British Asian boxer Sandeep Sahota defeated Vikas Lohan 3-0 in a Super Lightweight bout.
Sahota adopted an aggressive approach right from the start. Lohan also played attacking game but Sahota ultimately proved to be too good for him, winning the fast paced bout 40-37, 40-36, 40-37.
In another bout, Siddharth Verma beat Dilbagh Thakran 80-73, 79-73, 77-75.
In the Lightweight category, Kuldeep Dhanda of India beat Thailand's Vichayan Khamon 60-52, 60-55, 60-53 in convincing fashion.