Boxer Ridhwan ready to punch above his weight in pro debut
Boxer Ridhwan set to make his pro debut in boxing-mad Cebu tonight
For the past two months, he has been living in a cramped dormitory in Cebu alongside dozens of aspiring young Filipino fighters.
All to achieve his dream of turning professional.
Tonight, former Singapore amateur boxer Ridhwan Ahmad will do just that, when he steps into the ring at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino to take on local upstart Melchor Roda on the undercard of Pinoy Pride 35 - the Philippines' biggest boxing event.
The event has grown so big that it has even been held in the United States and Dubai.
Heavy-hitter Roda is only 18, but already has three fights under his belt, winning all by knockout.
Ridhwan, who won bronze medals at three successive SEA Games (2011, 2013, 2015), is 10 years his senior but will be making his professional debut.
"My opponent is under the same promoter as me, ALA Promotions (after Antonio Lopez Aldeguer, a promoter nicknamed "Godfather of Philippine boxing", who created Pinoy Pride)," Ridhwan told The New Paper yesterday.
"(Roda) has never fought beyond two rounds. Boxers with such power in their hands, like him, tend to rely on just that in the fight, so I expect him to come forward and make it a rough fight for me.
"He will probably try to knock me out in the first two rounds."
Ridhwan is confident the training he has been going through over the last two months, and during a coaching course in Budapest last year, will put him in good stead for the four-round fight.
The Nanyang Polytechnic graduate, however, has found it tough to cope with the hype surrounding Pinoy Pride in the boxing-mad country.
The boxers have constantly been under the spotlight as the promoters try to build interest for fight night, and he has had to attend various press conferences and take part in public sparring sessions.
"The past few weeks have been hard for me," he said.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm part of a reality show and, if I show any weakness, I will lose.
"But I knew I had to go through the hard yards and now is the easy part, the fight. Anyway, I'm honoured to be part of (the public sparring sessions), going up against seasoned professionals.
"It's a good learning experience and it gives me more confidence and self belief to perform in front of a crowd."
Thousands are expected to flock to the event tonight.
Even in Ridhwan's two "trial" fights at the ALA gym to determine his standard in December, over 700 people turned up.
At times over the past few weeks he has wondered if he was out of his depth.
"For a while, I was quite nervous," he recalled. "But I told my mum about it and then she sent me a few long messages to remind me again what I'm capable of. After that, strangely, I felt really calm. All the way until now.
"I don't know what I'd do without her."
The Sugar Ray Leonard fan doesn't stand to earn a whole lot tonight.
After taking into account the cost of medical check-ups, a CT scan and provisions like bandages and wraps, Ridhwan will likely make a profit of just over $300. But, as he has said before, it is not about the money.
"My aim is to be the first professional boxer from Singapore who can make a significant mark, at least on the Asian scene, and help grow our local scene," he said.
"I'm calm, I'm ready, and I hope I can fly the Singapore flag high."