Two Singaporean boxers in finals after 22 years
Hanurdeen and Jia Wei show guts and skill, and enjoy a little luck to be in gold-medal bouts
He didn't sting like a bee, but he definitely floated like a butterfly.
And it was enough for flyweight (52kg) Hanurdeen Hamid to become the first Singaporean to reach a South-east Asia (SEA) Games boxing final in 22 years, after he defeated Myanmar's Maung Nge with a unanimous decision in their semi-final at Expo Hall One yesterday.
He will face Filipino Ian Clark Bautista tomorrow.
Welterweight (64kg) Tay Jia Wei later also qualified for the final after beating Timor Leste's Henrique Pereira, also with a unanimous decision. He will also face a Filipino, Eumir Marcial, tomorrow.
The last Singaporean to reach a SEA Games boxing final was light- flyweight (46kg) P Sevakumaran, who won a silver in 1993. Singapore's last gold was won by welterweight Mohammed Mukhlis Amat in 1985.
Hanurdeen's triumph was all the more impressive considering he sustained a cut underneath his left eye after an accidental clash of heads with Maung in the first round.
But he showed great feet to dodge the aggressive Myanmarese's attacks for the rest of the bout, while connecting with jabs of his own.
A packed Expo Hall One roared in approval when the 21-year-old Singaporean's hand was lifted in victory by the referee at the end of the bout.
Later, while holding an ice pack against his wound, Hanurdeen told The New Paper: "By tomorrow, the swelling should go down.
Hanurdeen's coach of 10 years, ex-commando T Balasundram, was delighted with his protege's achievement.
"He executed the fight very well," said the former Safsa coach.
"He showed how defensive boxing can also be offensive boxing."
Hanurdeen, who is waiting for enlistment into National Service, was happy enough with the win, although he is fully aware there are a few areas of his game that need polishing.
He added he expected Bautista to be a formidable barrier in his quest for gold.
"I saw him box in his quarter-final," said the youngster.
"He's always moving forward. Pressure, pressure. Always pressure."
Local boxing chief Syed Abdul Kadir, the 1974 Sportsman of the Year, was jubilant.
"I told you Hanurdeen was a dark horse," he said.
"I told him before the SEA Games started that I had a feeling this is his year. All he has to do is believe in himself."
The other Singaporean in tomorrow's final, 19-year-old Tay, felt his triumphant passage into the gold-medal bout helped him prove a point.
He originally did not make the Singapore National Olympic Council's list of approved athletes for the SEA Games, but was later included after an appeal.
"Definitely," he said, when asked if he felt he had proven the doubters wrong.
"It's like a dream (to reach the final)... and a lot of people don't know I have only 19 fights under my belt, which is very few for this level of boxing.
"I've fought (Marcial) before, and I lost by technical knockout after getting a cut in the second round.
"I know he's very explosive... But I'll find a way."
Boxer Ridhwan in tears after semi-final exit
He was touted as the man to end local boxing's 30-year gold-medal drought at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil.
After local bantamweight (56kg) star Ridhwan Ahmad tripped up in his semi-final against Thailand's Tanes Ongjunta yesterday, the tears flowed freely.
The loss meant the Singaporean was forced to settle for his third SEA Games bronze medal in a row.
To put it simply, the 28-year-old was simply outclassed by the Thai, who is the reigning bantamweight champion of the King's Cup, the international boxing tournament hosted by his country.
Ridhwan magnanimously raised Tanes' hand in the ring after the result was announced, and acknowledged the support of the home crowd.
But, moments later, he was slumped in a corner of Expo Hall One, behind the curtains, sobbing away.
Voice still quivering, he told The New Paper that it was his worst moment in boxing.
"The disappointment I am feeling cannot be described," he said.
"I can take losing, but when I lost out there, I felt like I let my family and fans down, too."
"I gave of my best... (but) he was better.
"Every time I landed, his counters were sharp."
The pain of defeat is so bitter that Ridhwan, who owns the Legends Fight Sport boxing gym along North Canal Road, is considering calling time on his competitive career.
Ideally, he says he wants to achieve his goal of boxing at the Olympics, which means he has to attain a good placing at the AIBA World Championships in Qatar this August.
Will he return at the 2017 SEA Games?
"I don't know what's next for me, I haven't spoken to coach (local boxing chief Syed Abdul) Kadir.
"I've got to see... I will train, but I don't know if I'll compete again," said Ridhwan, shaking his head.
"But I'll still be in the scene."