'I fight for my family now'
Beneath Thai boxer Sirimongkol's gentle demeanour is a checkered past and a mighty punch
You wouldn't be able to tell from his clean-shaven exterior, his gentle demeanour and impeccable manners that Sirimongkol Singwancha is a legendary boxer with a 96-2 career record.
You probably wouldn't have guessed that he had won top-tier WBC titles in two divisions.
You surely couldn't have imagined the dramatic life he has led.
The 39-year-old Thai made the news in 2005 for being featured in a gay magazine, and four years later was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for drug dealing.
Such a roller-coaster ride would have broken many, but Sirimongkol is still on his feet, and more.
Come Feb 10, he will headline the Battle of Champions presented by Cartel International Promotions, at The Pavilion in Far East Square, where he takes on WBC Asia middleweight champion, Uzbek Azizbek Abdugofurov, in a title bout.
"I fight for my family now," said Sirimongkol, through a translator, after yesterday's press conference at the Hard Rock Cafe.
"In the past, I fought with no direction and I went astray in life. When I was sent to prison, I cried when my parents visited me, and I wanted to change for the better.
"I realised that I have a family to look after and there were others who looked up to me."
In the past, I fought with no direction and I went astray in life...I realised that I have a family to look after and there were others who looked up to me. Sirimongkol Singwancha
Luckily for him, he received a pardon in 2013, after serving just four years of his sentence.
While in prison, Sirimongkol made full use of his time, by becoming a boxing trainer known as "The Teacher".
More than 40 inmates went under his tutelage, including former IBF flyweight world champion Amnat Ruenroeng, who was then serving a 15-month prison sentence for robbery.
Another disciple of his was Chalompon Sawadsuk, who was knocked out by Abdugofurov after just 114 seconds in the first round of a bout last July.
Sirimongkol, who has fought twice at the world-renowned MGM Grand in Las Vegas, has no intention of going down the same way.
"I rate my chances of winning at 80 per cent," said Sirimongkol, who will have his father Manop and elder brother Manopchai at his corner.
"I don't know if Aziz will attack or defend, but I will practise for every style.
"If I have a chance, I will knock him out, but he is a strong puncher who has won all his four professional fights by knock-outs, so I have to be careful.
"If I don't have a chance to knock him out, I'm ready to go all 12 rounds."
The event also features Uzbek Qudratillo Abduqaxorov (9-0-0) taking on Ukrainian Viktor Plotnykov (34-4-0), who is signed to the same promotion - K2 Promotions - as former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Filipinos Jason Umbal and Roman Canto will slug it out in the super bantamweight division.
Local pro boxers Edgar Ang, 27, and debutant Hamzah Farouk, 25, will also feature on the card, taking on Indonesia's Bima Prakosa and Malaysia's Rahmat Munadjab respectively.
"We want to give Singaporean boxers an opportunity to experience high-profile events and develop a pathway for our local talents to be part of a prestigious boxing organisation such as WBC," said Alexander Shah, director of Cartel International Promotions.
Tickets for the Battle of Champions event on Feb 10, priced from $35, can be purchased from battleofchampions.peatix.com.