Singapore’s Muhamad Ridhwan boxing his way onto world stage

Professional boxer Muhamad Ridhwan. Photo: Stefanus Ian for Yahoo Singapore

Muhamad Ridhwan made history on 9 April by becoming the first Singapore male to win the World Boxing Association Asia Featherweight Championship title after beating Indonesia’s Waldo Sabu.

The accomplishment even drew praise from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said it was “inspiring” to see Ridhwan’s hard work pay off.

Ridhwan is now focused on getting better fights and tougher opponents, starting with the UBO World Super Featherweight title on 27 May at the Resorts World Ballroom.

The 29-year-old boxer, who has a perfect 7-0 win record since turning pro in February 2016, will be looking to take down experienced Tanzanian fighter Fadhili Majiha. Majiha has 20 wins, eight losses and four draws in his career.

“We always want to get tougher competition, we want to get through the tough opponents and create a name for ourselves,” said Ridhwan.

Out of Ridhwan’s seven victories, six of them ended with a knockout win. While the statistics look impressive, his journey to professional boxing has been anything but easy.

SEA Games regret

After spending close to a decade competing in the SEA Games and chasing for gold, Ridhwan’s amateur journey ended painfully with a third consecutive bronze on home soil in 2015.

Looking back, the co-founder of local boxing gym Legends Fight Sport, said the decision to turn pro was always delayed as he clung on to hopes of clinching the SEA Games gold in Singapore.

“Everything was about Singapore first, Singapore first… it’s always about country first,” he explained.

“Especially boxing, it’s not just a sport – it’s about pride, it’s about honour.”

Frustrated and confused, Ridhwan almost quit boxing as he went off to Budapest, Hungary on a scholarship from the International Olympic Committee to undergo a coaching course in late 2015.

“I thought that… if I can be a good coach full time, I can have my own group of boxers and maybe this is just what I am supposed to do, so I can say this is my calling and not the fighting part,” said the co-founder of local boxing gym Legends Fight Sport.

On the first day of the four-month long coaching course, however, after attending his first lecture and reading the notes for the coaching course, Ridhwan realised he was running away from what he truly loved: fighting in the ring.

“Eventually I think, you just cannot run from what you love, you will eventually go back to what you love to do,” said Ridhwan with a laugh.

Victory by any means

Once he made his decision, Ridhwan came back from his coaching course and wasted no time in getting back into the ring. He got himself a new coach from the Philippines, Rey Caitom Jr, and trained at the ALA Gym in Cebu before making his professional debut in February last year in the Philippines.

Come Saturday, Ridhwan said he will take victory by any means – be it by points or by knockout. His opponent, however, has other ideas, according to Ridhwan.

“Recently, my opponent was on video saying that he will knock me out,” said Ridhwan with a shrug. “I am amused actually,” he added.

But he is ready for the challenge. “I don’t want to just be a paper champion, I don’t want to just be known… oh he’s only up there because he fought against easy guys,” said Ridhwan.

His first world title fight represents his chance to get his name out there. Beyond the fight on 27 May, Ridhwan dreams of being able to fight on a bigger stage, under the bright lights of some of the world’s most famous boxing rings. “One of my main, main goals, is to fight, of course, in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden and to be ranked among the top 20 boxers in the Super Featherweight division,” he said.

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