Singapore boxing pro Ridhwan makes home debut tonight
Singapore boxing pro Ridhwan urges fans to rally behind him tonight
Singapore, watch me go.
That's local professional boxer Ridhwan Ahmad's message as he prepares for his home debut tonight in the co-main event of the Singapore Fighting Championships (SFC) 3: The Next Chapter, at the Singapore Futsing Association.
The 28-year-old former national amateur, who won bronze medals at three successive South-east Asia (SEA) Games (2011, 2013, 2015), turned professional last December.
Two months later, he made his pro debut in the Philippines, defeating upstart Melchor Roda on points on the undercard of Pinoy Pride 35 - the country's biggest boxing event - in Cebu.
He followed that up with a first-round knockout of Indonesian Heri Purnomo at the Malaysia Professional Boxing Championship in Kuala Lumpur in April.
Tonight will be the third fight of his burgeoning professional career and he will take on another Indonesian, Egi Rozten.
Speaking to The New Paper at the Juggernaut Fight Club gym along Hong Kong Street, Ridhwan said: "I'm amazed that in one year in the pros, I've done more than in the amateurs (where he had been since the age of 16).
"I had always wanted to turn pro, but there was always the ambition to fight for Singapore in the amateurs and get the gold medal at the SEA Games.
"When I didn't get that, the only option left was to try for the Olympics or turn pro."
Nicknamed "The Chosen Wan", his main improvement has been in handling his temperament.
"The most critical difference is I've become more mature in the way I approach a fight and how I handle tough situations," he said.
"I'm excited to show the local crowd how much I've improved, how much better I've become.
"I'm just looking forward to giving them a good show."
Ridhwan, who runs his own gym - Legends Fight Sport along North Canal Road - said his short-term goal is to finish the year with five pro fights under his belt.
His fight tonight will be over six rounds and he wants to build himself up to become a 12-round fighter by the middle of next year, as that is how long major title bouts last.
SFC 3 will also feature two other local professional boxers who also made their professional debuts early this year.
Nurshahidah Roslie, Singapore's only female professional, will face the wonderfully named Wondergirl Sithsaithong of Thailand.
Late bloomer Rafi Majid, 36, will face Malaysia's Alex Lim.
SFC 3 organiser and promoter Arvind Lalwani, a former national amateur boxer who owns the Juggernaut Fight Club, is certain professional boxing here is on the up.
"Where we are at now, we can't create much noise... But I believe by early next year, we can create a whole lot more," he said.
"The end goal (for Ridhwan, Shahidah and Rafi) is basically the same. I want them to be fighting on the big stage.
"I believe they can do it, they have the experience and knowledge. It is just about opportunities and timing.
"I believe that these three are the flag bearers for professional boxing in Singapore and I'll be there to help them all the way."
Lalwani recently attended the International Boxing Federation's annual convention in Beijing to expand his contacts and scour for opportunities.
He says an IBF-sanctioned fight will happen in Singapore next year.
Said the 36-year-old: "In Singapore, we have casinos, great convention centres, but our last big pro boxing event was in (Nov) 2012. Then nothing after that.
"So it's time we started doing something and I want to be the one to bring boxing to the forefront."
While the future seems bright, Ridhwan is focused on only winning right now.
"I am more goal-oriented and focused than before," he said.
"The goal is always: What's next, how do I get better, who should I beat next. I'm always looking forward to the next challenge.
"I'm at an age where I'm peaking. So I feel this is my time."