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Singapore toasts first world boxing champ

Singapore

SINGAPORE now has its first world champion in boxing after Muhamad Ridhwan stunned Tanzania's Fadhili Majiha with a fourth-round knockout to claim the Universal Boxing Organisation's (UBO) world super-featherweight title last Saturday.

Some critics may scorn at this universal professional crown for Ridhwan, questioning the validity of that claim because the 29-year-old is a boxer who could not even win a South-east Asian Games gold or even silver medal (he was a bronze medallist thrice).

But in these days of multiple bodies and organisations within a sport, there are world titles are there for the taking. In that respect, Singapore has had world champions in bowling and golf who could not boast that they were number one in their sports.

Ridhwan is one such world champion, whose boxing record should not be diluted. Since turning professional two years ago, he owns a perfect record of eight wins in eight fights.

If there is anything to be extracted from his tactical approach to Majiha before the solid right blow to the Tanzanian's temple that settled the showdown, it is that Ridhwan is punching above his weight in his quest for stardom.

A near-capacity crowd of 2,000 at Resorts World Sentosa rose to salute an aggressive Ridhwan, who said after the bout: "The plan was to wear him down round by round. We knew that he's fast and the intention was to throw the jabs and disrupt his rhythm. Only then would I go for the openings."

He added: "True enough, he made a mistake in the fourth round in which he took the last 10 seconds to rest, so I capitalised. I knew that if I follow the game plan, the knockout would come eventually."

When it came, Majiha, the more experienced (20 wins, eight draws, four losses prior to the fight) and younger (23 years) fighter who is also World Boxing Association pan-African champion, could do nothing but smell the canvas.

"It's an incredible feeling to win the title for Singapore and the boxing fans. It warms my heart and gives me great pride to see our fans smile," said Ridhwan, who plans to take a week's break before signing up for his next fight.

Promoter Scott O'Farrell said: "This was a great show but I am never going to be satisfied. I want to hit benchmark after benchmark. Just as my fighters always say to me: 'I want to be challenged.' You can be sure our next showdown is going to be nothing short of spectacular."

Of the eight other fights on the cards, another that greatly interested Singaporeans was the Sea Games 56kg amateur match-up between Daniel Jalil and Jason Chua to select the representative for the biennial event in Kuala Lumpur in August.

Jalil won by unanimous decision to claim the berth, but the fight had a greater significance in showing that local boxing is on a resurgence after a near 25-year slumber.

Not since the days of the swinging 1960s and 1970s has a match-off been needed to decide on a berth because of a dearth of boxers caused by poor management and the closure of boxing outlets, save for the historic Farrer Park gymnasium.

There was a time when match-offs such as those between Apbai Naidu and MP Kathiresan (featherweight) and Hashim Masud and G Mahadevan (lightweight) underlined the healthy state of the sport.

Professional boxing was also popular in those days, although the only true world champion then to perform in Singapore was "The Louisville Lip" Muhammad Ali at the National Stadium back in 1973 at an exhibition match.

Today, Singaporeans can boast of having its very own world boxing champion, nicknamed "The Chosen Wan", in Muhamad Ridhwan.