23 May 17 The Business Times by GODFREY ROBERT
AFTER languishing in the doldrums for almost 25 years, Singapore boxing seems to be punching above its weight.
With the growing popularity of mixed martial arts and kick-boxing these days, Singaporeans seem to have redeveloped the penchant for boxing, a glamour sport in the 1960s and 1970s among many locals.
Those were the days when pugilists like Ow Mun Hong, Austin Dunsford, Lim Kee Chan, Krishnan Gopalan, Syed Kadir, Jumaat Ibrahim, Cyril Jeeris, K Krishnan and Mohamed Mukhlis ruled the regional ring.
But after Mukhlis' South-east Asian Games gold medal in 1985, boxing suffered a low blow when even the famed Farrer Park gymnasium lost its clientele and became a dark and deserted dungeon.
Now there is light at the end of the tunnel, and amateur boxing has seen some realignment and new academies are sprouting.
The passionate Kadir, the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association president and former Olympian who himself runs an academy, has recently linked up with professional body Ringstar Management.
The former SEA Games gold medal winner and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist even managed to secure a slot for his amateurs in Ringstar's Roar of Singapore II professional card of 10 bouts - for four world, two inter-continental crowns and three regional titles - at Resorts World Sentosa this Saturday.
That evening, Daniel Jalili will take on fellow student Jason Chua in the 56kg eliminator match for a place in the Singapore contingent for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.
The tie-up between Kadir and Ringstar's founder and CEO Scott O'Farrell is a "major coup" as local amateur boxing will bring back memories of the capacity turnouts at the SBA Hall and the major community centres in the 1960s and 1970s.
Said O'Farrell: "I am pleased to stage the amateur bout. I can't tell you how important it is to support the amateur side of the sport. The box-off between Jalili and Chua will be very exciting and it deserves to take place at a huge event such as The Roar of Singapore II. I think the atmosphere will be electric, and the local boys will enjoy it as much as the professionals."
The main attraction will be Singaporean Muhamad Ridhwan Ahmad's attempt to become the country's first world champion when he takes on Tanzania's Fadhili Majia for the vacant UBO World Super Featherweight title.
Ridhwan, a former three-time SEA Games bronze medallist nicknamed "The Chosen Wan", has an unbeaten professional record of seven straight victories, six of them by knockouts.
But in Fadhili, he has a more experienced opponent, having had 32 fights, scoring 20 wins (nine knockouts) and drawing four.
Another big fight will decide if Canada's UBO world light-heavyweight champion Ryan "The Real Deal" Ford can maintain his unbeaten record, having secured 11 straight triumphs, seven by knockouts.
Ford is facing a tough opponent in the form of New Zealand's Robert Berridge, who boasts a record of 29 wins (21 knockouts), six draws and one defeat.
In a special attraction, former Ultimate Fighting Championship star Taylor "Double Impact" Lapilus from France will make his professional boxing debut as he takes on experienced former two-time Indonesian champion Heri Andriyanto (22-24-2, 10 knockouts).
The Roar of Singapore II takes place on Saturday, May 27, at Resorts World Sentosa. Doors open at 4pm, and the first fight is at 5.30pm. Tickets at S$40 and S$88 are now on sale at www.getwaave.com
On Wednesday, an in-depth interview with Ringstar CEO Scoot O'Farrell