PART FIVE: THE MEXICANS
Rohit goes to Hollywood
After the Iobe Ledua fight, Singh went even further afield. His BoxRec record shows four fights - and of course, four knock-out wins - in, of all places, Mexico, between June 2014 and October 2015.
He ended up there because of Chauncy Welliver’s enduring desire to see him get his comeuppance.
In early 2014, Singh was due to fight in a town called Helena, Montana, where Welliver had organised for him to fight a friend of Welliver’s named John Ellis.
Welliver spun Singh a story that Ellis would take a fall for money to feed a drug habit. “I told him ‘listen, I’ve got a guy who is gonna fall over’. I had a backstory - he’s a crackhead, why would he win, he’s a f…... junkie, no way will he beat you, give him a couple extra bucks, he will f…... lose. I guarantee he will lose to you.”
Welliver himself was due to fight Hassan Chitzah, a now 61-year-old American-domiciled Iranian who claims to have worked as a celebrity bodyguard. Chitzah’s fight record is 27-1, most of those in the boxing wild west of Mexico. “There was no deal with Hassan: Hassan really does think he’s the s...,” says Welliver. “I think he just assumed I am a big fat f.... He’s delusional: he thinks he could beat Klitschko.”
Singh and Chitzah arrived at the former gold rush town early, while Welliver embarked on the long drive east from Spokane. Six hours out, Welliver got a call from the promoter, saying he couldn’t find either fighter. Two hours later, he got another call from the promoter, incredulous, saying Singh and Chitzah had flown back to Los Angeles. “They had got wind that we weren’t going to do what they wanted us to do,” says Welliver. Welliver later spoke to Singh. “He said ‘brother, I don’t trust John Ellis.’ I thought ‘you shouldn’t because we were going to knock him out.’”
However, Singh and Chitzah appear to have hit it off, and Singh began tagging along on Chitzah’s Mexican excursions. “There’s some funny s... goes on down there,” says Welliver.
Singh, having seen his record reduced down to just 5-0 by Anton Sevsek’s suspicions, rebuilt it in Mexico.
Between June 28, 2014 and October 17, 2015, he beat debutant Jose Rodriguez, Ruben Rodriguez (0-2), Antonio Duarte (5-5) and David Ramos (0-3). Every fight was won by technical knockout. And Singh told Indian Newslink that the unfortunate Ruben Rodriguez was knocked clean out of the ring by his uppercut.
Hanging out with Chitzah also took Singh to the World Boxing Council’s Legends of Boxing function in California in May 2015, where the pair posed with boxing royalty, wore commemorative WBO medals around their necks and Singh collected a certificate of recognition from the California Legislative Assembly as “the world’s first Indian heavyweight champion of the world”. It was signed by legislative member Jose Medina, who didn’t return an email asking for comment.
Delve deeper into Singh’s website and you come across a picture of our man, proudly wearing a title belt inscribed ‘New Zealand Super-Heavyweight champion’. But super-heavy is only a weight division in amateur boxing, not professional, and Singh has never held the heavyweight title of any of the New Zealand boxing sanctioning bodies.
A trophy engraver, who doesn’t want to be named, says he remembers engraving some plates for a championship belt for Singh, who said he needed it done urgently as he was travelling overseas. It is not usual in boxing for champions to organise their own engraving work.
As well as his own personal website, there’s another unusual site online, called Bollywood Updated News, which features an article in which Singh talks of starring in a boxing-themed Bollywood movie, saying: “I am getting offers from the past couple of years … I am excited about the movies I will be doing.”
Somehow, in August 2015, Rohit Singh ended up at 11th on the World Boxing Organisation’s Asia-Pacific ranking list of heavyweights (Joseph Parker was ranked number one).
It’s an awkward conversation with the WBO’s regional official, Brisbane-based Danny Leigh. Yes, he put Singh on the list, yes he had heard the stories about him. Partly, he says, Singh was on the list to pad it out (because there weren’t many competitive heavyweights in the region) and an 11th-placed ranking didn’t really mean anything, and partly, he says, it was an attempt to flush him out and force him into taking a competitive fight. It didn’t work - Singh, for whatever reason, hasn’t fought since his Mexican adventures - and little had been heard of him.
I knew the legend of Rohit Singh for some years before coming to write about it. When I got hold of Chauncy Welliver to tell him I was doing a story, he got excited and got back in contact with Singh.
Sure enough, while Singh hadn’t had a fight for two years, the flame still burned. Welliver asked if he wanted another fight. Yes, said Singh.
“Do you want to assure a win and give an opponent more money to lose?” Welliver wrote. “Or you really going for it?”
“I can really go for it,” Singh replied. “But if Good Rank opponent, and he can help me easy win I can pay him no problem.”
Singh added: “I want to fight clever way and faster way to reach world title fight” and agreed that if Welliver deliberately lost to him, Singh would give Welliver 10 per cent of his fight purse from any world title fight he secured after that.
A bout was duly arranged on a Craig Thomson-promoted card at Ellerslie, Auckland in late 2018. Then Welliver got injured and never made the trip. Singh remained in recess. He was now nearly 40 years old. The story seemed over.
And then an announcement from Manchester, England, that the first-ever Indian heavyweight champion would be the headline attraction on a March 30, 2019 card. It seemed the Rohit circus was still rolling. The comeback, however, would be shortlived.
Myke Barrett, brother of the promoter Pat ‘Black Flash’ Barrett, a former European light-welterweight champ, got a tip-off. “He’s not on our show,” Myke Barrett says.
“When he called we thought ‘oh, he’s special this lad’, and we wrote him up a bit. Then someone called me and said ‘have you seen his videos?’” Barrett watched them. “And I thought ‘Oh my God’.”
Barrett forwards the email he received from a man named Krish, who announced himself as Singh’s manager, and said he was looking for a “good team to make Rohit world champ”. It included links to Singh’s Indian media appearances, his WBO certificate, and his original Boxrec record before it was, Krish says, deleted by jealous Kiwi promoters who didn’t want Singh to beat Joseph Parker to the world title. Singh’s oldest son is a South Auckland police officer named Krishneel.
The electoral roll shows Singh registered with his wife and three children at a Papatoetoe, South Auckland address, his profession recorded as ‘boxer’.
Behind security gates with a warning of CCTV cameras are three boxfresh Holden cars, a boxing bag dangling from the portico, and picked out around the doorframe in black lettering, the words ‘ROHIT SINGH, KO KING’. The cameras are working, because Singh emails me a still picture of one of my visits to his house. He’s not at home any of the times we call, but eventually he answers a phone call. Yes, he says, he’d be happy to talk, any allegations are false and he’ll call back to arrange a meet. We’re still waiting. In the meantime, Singh has taken down his website and locked his Twitter feed.
It left so many questions unanswered, not least the one which burned throughout researching this story. Why did he do it?
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