Tej Singh (16-5-3, 8 KOs) has been a staple of the Australian boxing scene for some time now.
Through 24 career fights he has taken on all comers, capturing the Australian and WBA Oceania Middleweight titles along the way.
Since moving to Australia from India nine years ago, it has become clear that he is not shy when it comes to taking on a challenge.
Renold Quinlan, Sam Soliman, Issac Hardman; these are just some of the names from the Australian scene that grace his record.
Then there is Uzbekistan’s former WBC Silver Super Middleweight champion, Azizbek Abdugofurov (13-1, 5 KOs) whom he fought to a split decision loss in Malaysia in 2017.
Now, the tough 34-year-old is embracing yet another tough task – gambling on himself by heading to San Diego to work with legendary trainer James ‘Buddy’ McGirt.
“They said, ‘we’ll see you spar, see how you go in sparring and if we see any potential we will probably give you a fight. Let’s take it from there,’” Singh told The Inner Sanctum.
“I’m looking forward to it. See how I go, how I perform and if they’re impressed they’re going to give me a fight.”
Set up by his trainer Gerry Murphy, the move comes on the back of a failure to secure a re-match for Issac Hardman’s Australian Middleweight title that he won from Singh in December last year.
In a back and forth 10 round bout, the surging 25-year-old Hardman (10-0, 8 KOs) took a majority decision over Singh (96-96, 97-93 and 98-92) to not only claim the Australian title, but the vacant IBF Australasian and WBO Oriental Middleweight titles as well.
It has been a result that has divided the opinions of fans and fighter alike.
In Singh’s mind he was the rightful winner, or at least worthy of a re-match based on both his performance and the word of his foe.
No extra clauses, no changes to the original bout – a straight re-match for the title.
“The fight happened and we all know what went down. Commentary was pretty much biased, I reckon I won the fight. In my mind I definitely won the fight,” Singh recounted.
“After that, we asked for a re-match and it was in the clause that ‘if the fight was close, we’ll give you a re-match.’ One judge gave it 96-96, so it was a majority win not like a convincing win, a draw on one card. You cannot get any closer than that, but still we didn’t get the re-match.
“They offered us a re-match on May 26 when he fought Robert Berridge. So we said ‘yes’ and the next day they’re like, ‘the fight’s at Super-Middle’ and I was like, ‘why’s the fight at Super-Middle when we fought at Middleweight for the titles?’
“They’re saying we didn’t take the fight, we got scared, we weren’t fit, stuff like that. Now he’s fighting ‘E-Man’ (Emmanuel Carlos) next month for the Middleweight titles.
“Say something and do something. The point is, it doesn’t worry me. I don’t care what people think about me and what they say. At least stick to what you’re saying to others and what you said to us.”
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Tej concedes that this has not been a stand-alone incident, but just another case of having a hard time finding a fight.
Understandably so, too. If fighting out of a southpaw stance was not hard enough to negotiate, there is also the relentless pressure he brings and a willingness to fight on the inside.
These attributes make Singh a tough opponent for all who face him.
The stark contrast between his desire to take on every challenge, compared to the attitude of potential opponents has been frustrating at times for Tej.
In moments like these, his attention quickly turns back to the forces he can control, though. He does not let his emotions get the better of him.
“I’ve taken the hardest fights,” he said.
“If you look at my resume, one or two fights, maybe three tops, that I would say were easy fights. They’re all hard fights.
“I’ve never ducked anyone, I still won’t duck anyone if I get a fight. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or how hard it is, I’ll take it.
“It is what it is. You’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing and move on and look for other opportunities if nothing is happening over here.
“That’s the attitude I go with. What’s the point of whinging about stuff that’s not even going to happen? Might as well try somewhere else and that’s what I’m doing.”
Tej will travel to the United States confident in the risk he is taking. There are no guarantees that he will catch the eye of McGirt, a trainer who has worked with decorated World champions such as Antonio Tarver, Sergey Kovalev, Arturo Gatti and Paulie Malignaggi.
Singh knows this, but he is willing to back his ever growing skill set while he remains in top physical condition. To this end, he is in full control of his own destiny.
“My body’s feeling better now. I’m actually feeling stronger than I have in a while and I think I’m getting better. I’m not getting worse anymore,” he said.
“I’m confident I’ve got a lot in me. Even though I’m 34 I reckon I’ve still got a lot in me and I can go further for another four or five years. There’s no doubt about that.
“I know I’ve got to take chances, hence why I’m heading to The States.”