Boxer Ridhwan set for pro debut
S'porean aces trials, will fight local in Pinoy Pride on Feb 27
Two fights, two knockout wins.
With that, Singapore boxer Ridhwan Ahmad has earned his first professional bout, on the undercard of Pinoy Pride, the Philippines' top boxing event, on Feb 27.
And he will fight a local, too.
The 28-year-old, a former national amateur boxer who won bronzes at three consecutive SEA Games from 2011 to 2015, left Singapore for Cebu on Dec 20 to pursue a professional career armed with his fists, a little cash and a whole lot of hope.
Through contacts, he was given two trial fights against budding Filipinos to impress Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, a boxing promoter nicknamed "Godfather of Philippine boxing" who created Pinoy Pride.
The event has grown so big that it has even been held in the United States and Dubai, and the upcoming event in Cebu will be its 35th edition.
In Ridhwan's first bout last Sunday, he knocked out his opponent in the third round with a right uppercut to the chin.
And on Wednesday night, he knocked out another opponent, this time with a right hook to the head.
Both times, about 700 people turned up - not a surprise for the boxing-mad nation.
But the atmosphere took some getting used to for the Singaporean.
"My first fight, especially, was nerve-racking," said Ridhwan.
"It was scary to be the only Singaporean in the arena, but my amateur boxing experience helped me to stay calm as I walked towards the ring.
"My opponents will turn pro too in the near future like me, so the fights were also tests for them."
The Nanyang Polytechnic graduate said he has not been able to speak with Aldeguer at length, but is determined to prove he has what it takes.
He said: "He has been liaising with my coach Rey Caitom and confirmed I will be fighting on the undercard of Pinoy Pride 35.
"All I know is I'm fighting a Filipino. But I don't know who yet.
"I hope my wins were able to convince (Aldeguer) that I'm ready. I still have a lot to learn and I'm willing."
Ridhwan is living in the dorm at ALA Gym (named after Aldeguer's initials), where Aldeguer gives young Filipino boxers a chance at turning professional, and he is the only non-Filipino there.
"They usually don't allow foreigners to stay with the fighters but my coach Rey was able to arrange for me to stay here," he explained.
"I follow all the rules, do my cleaning, washing and cooking there.
"There is an 8pm curfew, and training is from Monday to Saturday, twice a day, and is a mix of conditioning, runs, sparring and boxing skill work."
Sundays are rest days but Ridhwan does little more than just talk to his fellow aspiring boxers, or pop by the nearby market for an ice cream.
He says he has been able to adapt to the simple life in Cebu.
"So far it's not been too difficult I guess," said the Sugar Ray Leonard fan.
"Maybe the only thing I have to get used to is having people around me almost all the time, because I'm someone who likes alone time.
"The boxers here don't have much to do, so they rely on each other for entertainment.
"My only focus now is to make sure I make a transition well into the professional style of fighting because it is really different from the amateur style. And hopefully, I will do Singapore proud come Feb 27."