Boxer Ridhwan eyes the Midas punch
Ridhwan sets his sights on SEA Games gold as boxers prepare for final tune-up
Singapore boxing's bid to end a 30-year gold-medal drought at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games will almost certainly rest on the shoulders of Ridhwan Ahmad.
The 27-year-old lightweight (56kg to 60kg) boxer 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 SEA Games in 2011 and 2013 - by bagging the prized gold on home soil in June.
The last time the Republic triumphed in a boxing event was when Mohammed Mukhlis won the welterweight title (64kg to 69kg) at the 1985 Bangkok Games.
A bronze, claimed by Jagdew Singh (60kg to 64kg), was all local boxers had to show when Singapore last hosted the Games, in 1993.
Ridhwan, who runs the Legends Fight Sport boxing gym located along North Canal Road, is fired up in his quest for gold.
"I badly want to win, and the challenge is to stay hungry," he told The New Paper yesterday.
"I love to spar so I do a lot of that. I've also picked up my training, up to three times a day now that I have my own gym.
"At the moment, me and the other fighters are going really hard, but we know we have to hold back (in training) sometimes.
"We must make sure we are in peak condition in June."
Singapore will host the 2015 SEA Games from June 5 to 16 and boxing will be held at the Singapore Expo.
On Monday, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) named five boxers who will carry the nations hopes at this year's Games.
Singapore Amateur Boxing Association president Syed Abdul Kadir, the 1974 Sportsman of the Year who won gold in 1971 at what was then the South-east Asian Peninsula (SEAP) Games and a bronze at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, believes his charges will be ready to deliver.
"We've just kept going since our efforts at the last SEA Games in Myanmar," said the 66-year-old.
"We've sent our guys on training camps and competitions overseas and given them the exposure they need.
"Our fighters have been looking forward to this and they've been working very, very hard.
"To do well on home soil, they have to focus 100 per cent and must be committed. And I know they are."
Last November, Kadir and his boxers went on a two-week training camp in Sri Lanka.
Last month, the squad brought home a haul of one gold, two silvers and a bronze medal from the Penang International Boxing tournament.
Next weekend, the team will leave to compete in the Hong Kong City Cup International Boxing Tournament.
Kadir plans to send his charges on another "intensive" three-week camp in Sri Lanka in late April, as a final tune-up ahead of the big event of the year.
He is eager for a champion to help bring the sport back into the public's consciousness.
"When someone wins people will talk," said Kadir. "The youngsters will have a champion to look up to and it can inspire people to take part in the sport. I hope we can do it."
He believes home advantage will be a key factor.
Said Kadir: "It'll be a small, closed arena, so the atmosphere can be very important.
"The crowd can turn a match for you.
"The home support will be huge encouragement for our fighters."
Kadir on our fighters
(From left) Harnudeen Hamid (52kg to 56kg): "He's young, but he has improved a lot. He won all three of his fights at the Penang International Open to win our only gold medal, knocking out his opponent in one match."
Zakaria Ismail (75kg to 81kg): "In Penang, he did well and beat the Malaysian SEA Games representative, so I think he can do well at the SEA Games, too."
Leong Jun Hao (64kg to 70kg): "He's a strong boy and he too has improved a lot. I think he can surprise."
Ridhwan Ahmad (56kg to 60kg): "For him the target is definitely gold, after the two bronzes in 2011 and 2013. He has dropped down a weight class so he's going to be stronger than a lot of his rivals, and he's very positive."
Solihin Nordin (60kg to 64kg): "I feel the referee was too eager to stop Solihin's semi-final bout at the 2013 SEA Games. He won a bronze even though he lacked experience then, but he has gotten a lot more exposure since then and swopped weight classes with Ridhwan. I believe in him."