Ridhwan issues warning ahead of SEA Games
After victory in Sijori Cup, Singaporean targets one more big performance before SEA Games
He is on a mission to end Singapore boxing's 30-year gold-medal drought at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, when the region's biggest multi-sport competition unfolds here from June 5 to 16.
Judging by his performances at the Sijori Cup held at the Bedok Sports Hall over the last two days, Ridhwan Ahmad is hitting all the right notes.
The last time the Republic won a boxing gold was when Mohammed Mukhlis claimed the welterweight title (64kg to 69kg) at the 1985 SEA Games in Bangkok.
In the bantamweight (52.1kg to 56kg) final at the Sijori Cup yesterday, Ridhwan beat Malaysia's SEA Games representative Arifiqanie Ahmad Anshori in style.
After what appeared to be an evenly-contested first round, the Singaporean began dominating the bout.
Early in the second round, he spotted an opening and two quick jabs to Arifiqanie's head swung the match in his favour.
Noticing the Malaysian was wobbling, the referee began a standing eight-count before allowing the fight to continue.
Arifiqanie immediately came out swinging, but Ridhwan showed great footwork to glide out of danger and send his opponent tumbling onto the ropes.
Firmly in control, the Singaporean entertained the crowd at one point, shaking his head at his opponent when the Malaysian failed to connect with a punch.
The 27-year-old, who runs the Legends Fight Sport boxing gym located along North Canal Road, won a unanimous decision after the three rounds.
Post-fight, Ridhwan, whose hero is Sugar Ray Leonard, told The New Paper: "He (Arifiqanie) put up a courageous front by starting aggressively... I expected it.
"My strategy was just to focus and adjust when I needed to.
"In the first round, I gave him some false hopes by letting him land a few shots.
"Then, in the second round, when he thought his punches were going to connect, I went on the attack. After that, I found my rhythm and distance."
After beating Indonesia's Supriardi in the semi-final on Wednesday, Ridhwan described the Sijori Cup - it features boxers from the Malaysia SEA Games team, Malaysian state Johor and Indonesia's Riau province - as a good warm-up for the Singapore squad as they prepare for bigger tests.
"Now we know whatever strategy and plans we've worked on over the last two or three months are working," he said.
"It gives me confidence I can apply it at higher-level tournaments."
Next up for the Singapore team is the 22nd President's Cup boxing invitational in Makassar, Indonesia, from April 19 to 26.
The tournament will feature some of Asia's top boxers, from countries like Syria, Japan, South Korea and Egypt.
Thailand and Philippines, traditional boxing giants in South-east Asia, are also likely to field their SEA Games teams.
Ridhwan is targeting a podium finish at the international meet, although Singapore Amateur Boxing Association president Syed Abdul Kadir was more cautious.
"It'll be the last competition for our boxers before the SEA Games and the quality will be perfect for them as a final tune-up," said the former SEAP Games gold medallist and 1974 Sportsman of the Year.
"I just want to see good performances in Indonesia, and to me, winning would be a big bonus.
"I'm very happy with what I've seen of our guys at the Sijori Cup. Everyone performed exceptionally well."
HOW SINGAPORE'S SEA GAMES BOXERS FARED
- Flyweight (49.1kg to 52kg): Hanurdeen Hamid bt Prithiv Raaj Elansharan (Sin 'B' ) 3-0
- Bantamweight (52.1kg to 56kg): Ridhwan Ahmad bt Arifiqanie Ahmad Anshori (Mas) 3-0
- Lightweight (56.1kg to 60kg): Al-Nazirul Othman (Mas) bt Solihin Nordin TKO (Injury)
- Light-welterweight (60.1kg to 64kg): Leong Jun Hao bt Ashri Hazreen (Johor) KO
- Welterweight (64.1kg to 69kg): Tay Jia Wei bt Khir Akyazlan Azmi (Mas) Disqualification
- Middleweight (69.1kg to 75kg): Zakaria Ismail bt Alexandrew David (Sin 'B') 3-0.