Singapore boxer Syafiq is on a mission to be world champion
Feb 20 date is another step in Syafiq's goal to be world champion
A little over three years ago, his professional boxing career got off to the perfect start.
In front of a home crowd at Marina Bay Sands, Syafiq "The Slasher" Abdul Samad beat Briton James Goyder with a first round stoppage in their light-middleweight fight on the undercard of the Indonesian world featherweight champion Chris John's successful WBA title defence on Nov 9, 2012.
Since then, Syafiq has found opportunities in pro boxing - or any other form of fighting like MMA (mixed martial arts), for that matter - hard to come by.
Little wonder the 22-year-old is relishing being part of the top bill at the Singapore Fighting Championship (SFC) 2 at Le Danz ballroom on Feb 20, where he will compete in a Super Four tournament for the World Boxing Foundation Asia Pacific Light Heavyweight championship.
The Singaporean's rivals for the title are Malaysia's Ridzuan Dahari, Richard Corminal of the Philippines and Thailand's Frapayak Muatrunsarakham.
A full-time National Serviceman, Syafiq is also proficient in Muay Thai, Greco-Roman Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jit Su, and admits his long-term ambition is in MMA.
Speaking to The New Paper recently, the youngster, who got his nickname after surviving a vicious machete attack (see other story) eight years ago, said: "Having a chance to win the WBF Asia Pacific title is a big opportunity.
"It's a major pro boxing title.
"I want the recognition (of being a regional champion). I want to progress."
Syafiq is ambitious.
"In Singapore, when people think of football, they think Fandi Ahmad," he mused.
"When they think of boxing, I want them to think of me.
"To do that, I have to make my mark. So this (WBF title) is one of my goals.
"My ultimate ambition is to be a world champion, in MMA or any other fight sports... And to compete in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).
"Even if I don't get it, I know I would have given my best.
"Like they say, if you reach for the sky and you don't get it, you'll still land on the clouds."
According to his coach of seven years, Arvind Lalwani, the Republic Polytechnic graduate has some serious talent.
He was the first Singaporean to become an Asian Muay Thai champion, when he won in Uzbekistan in a youth category in 2010.
He was also the first Singaporean to compete in overseas MMA promotions like Dare FC and Pacific Xtreme Combat, in Thailand and Hong Kong, respectively.
He won both times, and his professional MMA record so far is an impressive four wins from five fights.
But fighters need to consistently be in competition and that's where Syafiq has suffered.
His last fight was at SFC 1, on 20 Dec 2014. Three times last year, he was slated to fight overseas, and each time the opportunity fell through.
Arvind, however, says Syafiq's young enough and can reach the top.
Arvind, 35, a former boxer who runs Juggernaut Fight Club gym and is the organiser of SFC 2, said: "He's very talented and he's got a lot of heart."
Syafiq stands to earn between about $1,000 to $2,000 for his night's work at Le Danz.
It is not lucrative, but he says the chance of winning a title in front of a partisan local support is the attraction.
"Fighting in front of a home crowd is great motivation," he said.
"I've experienced fights here and overseas, and there's a big difference.
"When you're the local fighter, the fans cheer your name... That gives you encouragement and confidence, because you feel like you have their weight behind every punch you throw.
"It feels like its hurting the opponent more, not just physically but mentally.
"And I feel like I have the upper hand."
- Tickets for SFC 2 can be purchased at Juggernaut Fight Club gym at 33D Hong Kong Street, or through singaporefightingchampionships.com/tickets.
Name: Syafiq Abdul Samad
Nickname: The Slasher
Date of Birth: 18 July 1993
Disciplines: Muay Thai, Boxing, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jit Su
Favourite athlete: Ramon Dekkers (Dutch kickboxer and eight-time former Muay Thai world champion)
Favourite food: Nasi Lemak
Pet peeve: Dishonest people
SFC 2 CARD (Professional bouts)
- Luke Adams (USA, Juggernaut Fight Club) v Jonathan Thoo (GBR, Team Thoo Boxing)
- Nurshahidah Roslie (SIN, Juggernaut Fight Club) v Ella Tang (MAS, TNT Kickboxing)
*SUPER FOUR TOURNAMENT FOR WBF ASIA PACIFIC HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
- Syafiq 'The Slasher' Abdul Samad (SIN) v Mohd Ridzuan Dahari (MAS)
- Richard Corminal (PHI) v Frapayak Muatrunsarakham (THAI)
*Winners of each semi-final meets in the final
- Rahul K Raju (IND, Juggernaut Fight Club) v Arvin Chan (PHI, Camp Vallega Muay Thai)
- Nur Athirah Tantiana (MAS, The Borneo Tribal Squad) v Tiffany Teo Hui Hoon (SIN, Juggernaut Fight l Will Chope (USA, Combat 360) v Kai Chee (MAS, Independent)
There will also be six amateur MMA fights and four amateur boxing bouts at SFC 2.
Boxer Syafiq on that vicious attack where he nearly lost his arm
The scars have healed, but for local boxer and mixed martial arts (MMA) exponent Syafiq "The Slasher" Abdul Samad, they are a reminder of the most harrowing moment of his life.
Eight years ago, he was a victim of a vicious machete attack in Bedok.
Syafiq, now 22, says it was a case of wrong identity.
His assailants were never caught.
The attack kicked off a chain of events that led him to where he is today.
Recalled Syafiq: "I was chilling with a friend in our neighbourhood at Bedok when a gang of about 15 guys appeared, shouting at us and surrounding us.
"Then one of them kicked me from behind.
"I fell to the ground and I covered myself. My friend managed to escape.
"Then, I got hammered. They kicked and punched me for a few minutes, then left me."
His agony was far from over.
"I thought that was it... Then, I noticed my arm was dangling," said Syafiq,
"Then, I looked down and saw my leg was also butchered up.
"I didn't even realise (there was a parang) in the attack.
"There was so much blood... It was the first time I saw it.."
Despite feeling light-headed after losing so much blood, the teen dragged himself to a nearby fitness corner and rested on the bench.
Soon after, the buddy he was with returned and called Syafiq's father, and an ambulance.
Syafiq was in hospital for two weeks and took two months to fully recover.
As fate would have it, this was when he developed the desire to pick up MMA.
"While I recovering, I watched a show on TV called The Contender Asia, about Muay Thai fighters competing for a prize," he said.
"That was when I decided I wanted to learn Muay Thai.
"I never wanted to become the victim again."
He took up Muay Thai classes run by Arvind Lalwani, who became his trainer and mentor.
"I first saw him when he was 15," recalled Arvind.
"He wanted to do something that gave him (self-defence) and discipline.
"He has come so far and now, he is the first Singaporean to get a shot at a major professional boxing title.
"This will be a great experience for him and all the other fighters on the card, and I hope to be able to keep giving our local fighters more opportunities like this in the future."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ