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Knocking out the odds

25 May, 2015   Nicolette Mok

Our Sporting Hero. My Neighbour. Ridhwan Ahmad.

“One of the simpler things that I want to do now is just to have two hours to myself to go and fly a kite, because I’m really busy and I don’t have time for other activities. I wish I could just have two worry-free hours, [without] having to make weight, or prepare for competitions, or train, or work,” mused Muhamad Ridhwan Ahmad.

This is not surprising, seeing how the dogged boxer, touted as Singapore’s best and tipped to win the nation’s first SEA Games boxing title since 1985, keeps a punishing training schedule on top of running his own gym, Legends Fight Sport.

With remarkable perseverance, he is looking to outpace his regional opponents at the upcoming SEA Games. In fact, the 28-year-old fully embodies the spirit of fighting as he works continually against the odds. Listening to him speak, one might even get the impression that he must not have tasted the feeling of rest in a very long time.

“Whenever I go to the park, I see people flying kites, and [it gives me] that feeling of freedom, the feeling of being at peace. I really, really want to experience that, but I’ve never had the time to buy my own kite and learn how to do it,” he shared.

Despite his desire to simply kick back and relax, the local champion appears to have developed a thirst for action all the time, fighting – in all senses of the word – hard even when a break is due.

Apart from training, managing, and teaching (Legends Fight Sport opens for classes at 6.30 a.m. on weekdays), Ridhwan also hosts boxing events in a bid to promote his sport, providing opportunities for newcomers to compete.

“A lesson I learnt from boxing is to give more than you take, especially in terms of punches. It applies to life as well. Instead of just taking, you need to learn to give back. That’s what I try to do with my business partner and my team. We try to give back as much as possible, by sharing our experiences and creating opportunities for [others],” he explained.

Starting out under the mentorship of local boxing legend Syed Abdul Kadir, who remains his coach till today, Ridhwan was inspired to enter the ring by old boxing videos and a certain iconic Sylvester Stallone film.

Naturally, he lost his first bout, given his inexperience. But the failure gave the born fighter something to work towards. Displaying inherent grit despite his tender age back then, he revealed: “My most important fight was actually my first, because if I had won that one, I might have quit. But I lost, and I found a reason to continue.”

The resilient athlete went on to clinch several international medals over the years, battling through unfortunate injuries and personal difficulties that might have deterred lesser fighters. After winning bronze medals at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Boxing Tournament in 2010, the 3rd Taipei International Boxing Tournament in 2013, as well as the previous two SEA Games, he went on to win this year’s Hong Kong City Cup International Boxing Tournament in what appears to be a prelude to his performance at this year’s regional Games.

Ridhwan remarked that, when given the choice, he would always opt to compete in spite of injuries. Demonstrating the very resolve that had earned him his present success, he said: “I will fight through [my injuries] to find a way to compete, because it’s better to be in the ring than to be watching.”

“Everybody has problems. I had a back problem; I had financial problems. But I said to myself, since I’m here, I’m already halfway through, I should get through it as best as I can. Instead of finding excuses, I just have to work harder. I just accepted the fact that the amount of support I have is this and I have to work harder than everybody else, so I promised myself not to give up and do whatever I could,” he added.

Admitting that there had been several times when he’d felt that he’d “had enough”, the dedicated fighter nevertheless conceded: “I cannot stop, because competing is in me. I will keep going as long as I feel hungry.”

“Boxing brings out the best in you. It breaks you apart, shows you what kind of fighting spirit and dedication you have. It teaches you about commitment, sacrifice and hard work,” he affirmed.

Indeed, Ridhwan may continue to face difficulties throughout his career, but his ceaseless passion for the sport means that a break to fly kites is unlikely to happen any time soon.