Ridhwan's KO gold a boost for SEA Games
National star Ridhwan Ahmad didn't just win gold at the Hong Kong City Cup International Boxing Tournament last weekend, he did it in style.
Midway through the second round of his final bout with China fighter Li Xiu Dan at the Pei Ho Street Sports Centre in Kowloon, the 27-year-old spotted an opportunity to strike and went for the jugular, sending a thunderous blow to the temple which had Li out for the count.
You could almost hear the pride in Singapore Amateur Boxing Association (SABA) president Syed Abdul Kadir's voice when he described the moment.
"Wan hit him with a sweet right hook," said the 1974 Sportsman of the Year. "He's been working on that."
Kadir won gold in 1971 at what was then the South-east Asian Peninsula Games and a bronze at the 1974 Commonwealth Games.
Singapore's last triumph at a South-east Asia (SEA) Games was in Bangkok in 1985, when Mohammed Mukhlis won the welterweight title (64kg to 69kg).
Ridhwan is the big hope to end that drought at the Singapore Expo hall when the SEA Games are held here from June 5 to 16.
The lightweight boxer (51kg to 56kg) is determined to make up for the disappointment of missing out on two successive finals - he has two bronze medals after losing in the semi-finals at the 2011 and 2013 Games.
Ridhwan's gold was the highlight of a successful outing in Hong Kong by Singapore's boxers, who also returned home with five silver and three bronze medals.
Leong Jun Hao and Zakaria Ismail won silvers, as did women boxers Ang Fen Ni, Leona Hui and Efasha Kamarudin.
Harnudeen Hamid, Solihin Nordin and Tay Jia Wei claimed bronze.
Ridhwan was happy with his performance in a tournament that featured boxers from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and China cities Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
"The win was good but what was more important to me was that I got to apply what I wanted to," he said.
Referring to the final, he said: "I was focused more on the psychological side of the bout, to be composed and aware, and not get desperate even when he (Li) annoyed me a little by trying to dodge my punches. To still be in control."
Ridhwan and Kadir both singled out 19-year-old Tay as the star in the making after his performance in Hong Kong.
Despite being one of the least experienced boxers in the team, he put up a good fight in his semi-final defeat by an opponent from China.
Tay hopes the Hong Kong outing and his upcoming fight in the Sijori Cup here next month will be enough to earn him a spot on the SEA Games team.
He was not on the Singapore National Olympic Council's Jan 27 list of over 900 names who made the cut for the first round of the selection process for the Games, but SABA will appeal for his - and the women fighters' - inclusion in the next round of selection.
"I want to compete in the SEA Games very badly," said Tay, a third-year Diploma student in nutrition, health and wellness at Singapore Polytechnic.
"It's a goal of mine since I started boxing five years ago and I've used it as motivation. It's the first time Singapore is hosting the SEA Games after so long, so it's very important to the country and it means a lot to me, too."
Apart from the Sijori Cup, the boxers will also undergo an intensive three-week camp in Sri Lanka in late April as a final tune-up for the Games.
"The Hong Kong trip was a good one," said Kadir.
"They need the excitement of competition every now and then. In terms of performances, I would also say it was better than in some previous tournaments.
"Our guys showed they can fight, they can compete, and they really put up a great show."