Off The Beaten Track

LO­CAL BOX­ING STAR MUHAMAD RIDHWAN LEADS A DOU­BLE LIFE AS AN EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR AND PRO ATH­LETE. HE SHARES WHAT IT TAKES TO PUR­SUE A PATH THAT IS NOT EV­ERY­ONE’S CUP OF TEA.

Men's Health (Singapore) - - NEWS -

‘The Cho­sen Wan’ is hum­ble and fo­cused. His shy de­meanor is in stark con­trast to the loud, cir­cus-like fan­fare that ac­com­pa­nies each ti­tle bout.

TThis is not a rags-to-riches story that de­picts Muhamad Ridhwan’s rise to the top. Rather, it’s a tale that tells of his choice to do things dif­fer­ently; to live a life that is un­con­ven­tional and sad­dled with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The me­dia spot­light on Ridhwan has never been this glar­ing, but it’s not a sur­prise. He is Sin­ga­pore’s first World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion cham­pion, and af­ter clinch­ing the Uni­ver­sal Box­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion world ti­tle shortly af­ter, his pro fu­ture seems ex­tremely bright. The 29-year-old is a three-time Sea Games bronze medal­list, but back then, those medals re­minded him of his fail­ure to clinch gold. “I thought maybe I was done with the sport and that I’ve got noth­ing left to of­fer,” he re­calls. “I took a break and did a coach­ing course, but re­alised box­ing is still a sport I rel­ish.” He re­dis­cov­ered his verve af­ter a train­ing stint in the Philip­pines and con­tin­ued to plough on. Ridhwan’s ef­forts paid off with those wins, and he even se­cured a con­tract with Ringstar Man­age­ment, a box­ing man­age­ment and pro­mo­tions com­pany. His sit­u­a­tion may ap­pear rosy, but like any ath­lete striv­ing for ex­cel­lence, he had to face mul­ti­ple hur­dles.

“Fund­ing is a prob­lem, but that’s a bor­ing an­swer,” he says. “I’m quite sick and tired of peo­ple com­plain­ing that not hav­ing enough money is a chal­lenge – it will al­ways be. When I first started, I had noth­ing. I worked as a free­lance trainer and took on odd jobs such as be­ing a cleaner and do­ing pizza de­liv­er­ies.

“Whether it’s for $30 or $40 a day, I would do it. I was also jug­gling both my stud­ies and com­pet­ing as an am­a­teur boxer, so it was dif­fi­cult to hold down a full-time job.”

With a busi­ness part­ner, he man­aged to pull to­gether his sav­ings and launch his first gym, Leg­ends Fight Sport, which at first wasn’t meant to be a box­ing gym. “I re­alised peo­ple do ap­pre­ci­ate my knowl­edge of the sport,” he says. “So I de­cided to teach them prop­erly and in my own style.”

Ridhwan’s fe­ro­cious hooks and nifty footwork have as­tounded both op­po­nents and ob­servers, but the man who’s also known as “The Cho­sen Wan” re­mains hum­ble and fo­cused.

His shy de­meanor is in stark con­trast to the loud, cir­cus-like fan­fare that ac­com­pa­nies each ti­tle bout, but that’s why fans love him: He al­ways lets his gloves do the talk­ing.

Out­side of the ring, how­ever, suc­cess is not as eas­ily quan­tifi­able as that of a ti­tle belt. Ridhwan opened a sec­ond gym re­cently, which out­siders would deem a fi­nan­cial suc­cess – but not so much for him.

“Some peo­ple think I’m hav­ing it easy,” he says. “But they don’t know my in­come. En­trepreneur­ship is a lonely in­dus­try, and box­ing is a lonely sport. I hap­pen to be jug­gling both and the strug­gles are real. I can quit and get a sta­ble job but I can’t just aban­don mem­bers who look for­ward to train. Also, I want to pro­vide for the peo­ple who have been sup­port­ing me.

“Suc­cess is not about prof­its or how many busi­nesses I own. It’s more of what I’m leav­ing be­hind when I’m gone.”

Ridhwan is keen to stress that de­spite own­ing two gyms, hav­ing suf­fi­cient funds is al­ways an on­go­ing is­sue, but it’s a chal­lenge he is will­ing to face.

“Some­times you don’t re­ally know what’s go­ing on,” he says. “You might even slip into de­pres­sion if you don’t han­dle the pres­sure prop­erly. A lot of my train­ing ex­penses still come from my own pocket, and my gyms don’t fund my train­ing.

“Get­ting into busi­ness is al­ways a risk. I have no tem­plate on how to pre­vent fail­ure. But what­ever the out­come, it will al­ways be worth it.”

Ul­ti­mately, Ridhwan is tak­ing his dual life very se­ri­ously. He feels that he is on the cusp of greater things. With each fight (his next match is for the IBO In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Belt on Oct 20), he feels he is step­ping ever closer to his dream.

“I love fight­ing – that’s what I want to do,” he says. “I want to fight on the big stage, and one of my goals is to unite Singaporeans through box­ing. There are so many peo­ple who don’t see eye to eye, like on so­cial me­dia, where there’s just so much hate – racism is­sues for ex­am­ple. Also, peo­ple blame the gov­ern­ment for ev­ery mi­nor prob­lem.

“My aim is to be in­volved in a huge ti­tle match that would take place in an arena like the Na­tional Sta­dium, and to have ev­ery­one put aside his or her dif­fer­ences, come to­gether, and show sup­port.”

Ridhwan un­der­stands that his dream may sound lofty to some, but he is con­fi­dent that he can ful­fil it.

“What­ever I have been through has made me be­come more re­silient and de­ter­mined,” he says. “Plus, it helps that I’m quite stub­born!”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.