Sports

Muhammad Ashiq on making Singapore boxing history

Muhammad “Mr. Fantastique” Ashiq made history last Friday, 23 November when he became the first Singaporean in history to claim a World Boxing Council (WBC) championship.

He stopped Indonesia’s Galih Susanto via TKO in the fifth round of their main-event bout at Lion City Fury Championship Boxing, which emanated from The Pavilion at Far East Square in Singapore, to claim the vacant WBC International Silver Super Bantamweight Title.

The belt is the highest boxing prize any homegrown Singaporean has competed for, and knowing that weighed heavily on the 23-year-old’s shoulders.

“I did feel the pressure when I [entered] the ring, but I looked straight into Galih Susanto's eyes, and told myself I am ready and I am going to beat him,” he said.  

“The crowd was there for me. They believed I could [beat him], so there was no more pressure.”

The packed crowd held its collective breaths when the Indonesian knocked down the local hero just moments after the opening bell sounded.

“Yes, I dropped to the ground,” he admitted.

“Then I laughed to myself in my head, got up, and told myself it did not hurt me at all.

“It is just funny that I did not see that coming. My vision was a bit blurry, but I acted like nothing was wrong. I didn’t want my team and the crowd to get worried.”

After shaking off the cobwebs, Ashiq took over the match. He absorbed his rival's best shots and responded with the offensive flurries that have been a staple in his undefeated run in his professional boxing career.

Throughout the rest of the contest, Susanto went for clinches, kept his head low, and even pulled and tripped “Mr. Fantastique” in an attempt to break his opponent’s rhythm.

A point was deducted from the Indonesian after an elbow in one of their exchanges caused a cut on the Singaporean’s eyebrow.

“My corner reminded me to lean on him when he did that so I can get his legs tired, and I should throw my right uppercut, followed up with a left body shot,” he said.

“I got him gassed out, and I felt I could do more work [on him].”

In accordance to WBC rules, the scorecards were announced at the end of the fourth round, revealing two judges seeing the bout even.

However, a different story developed in the fifth stanza.

Susanto again closed the distance by putting his head on Ashiq’s chest, but “Mr. Fantastique” took a step back, swung a left hook at Susanto’s covered head, and then unleashed a punishing body shot, which dropped the Indonesian to the canvas for good.

“He looked like he was in pain, but might get up,” Ashiq recalled.

“I felt like that body shot was not at full blast. It just hit the right spot at the right time.”

The TKO victory was Ashiq’s fifth in six bouts, and he became the first Singaporean in history to capture a WBC title.

Ashiq plans to build on his incredible success next year.

“2019 will be another big year because 'Mr. Fantastique’ will still work hard and aim higher,” he said. “I have more to learn as I climb to the top. I will take it step by step and not rush.”

MMA (MIXED MARTIAL ARTS)