Muhamad Ridhwan made local history when he knocked Fadhili Majiha of Tanzania out at The Roar of Singapore II, instantly becoming Singapore’s very first pro boxing world champion, as recognised by the Universal Boxing Organisation (UBO).
Now two months away from his next fight, the 29-year-old Ringstar athlete – more popularly known as The Chosen Wan (TCW) – sits down with Arman Shah to talk about fighting for the International Boxing Organization (IBO) belt and pushing local boxing to the next level.
What’s a day in the life of TCW like?
It changes everyday, but I try to revolve it around training. I train two times a day, six days a week. In the morning, I either go for a run or do some strength and conditioning. In the afternoon, I spar from 4pm to 5.30pm.
I also own a fight gym, so I can be there as early as 6.30am to train my first client, and I usually wrap up around 10pm after my last class. It’s funny. People assume I’m living the life because I’m a professional athlete, but my life is a constant balancing act.
How did you come up with your fight name?
I didn’t choose TCW to be honest; one of my previous promoters did. My third pro fight took place in Singapore, so he was trying to market me in the local boxing scene.
He wanted something catchy, so he came up with TCW and I guess it caught on. It’s stuck with me for the past two years. I’m actually the one who designed the logo and did the whole branding for TCW.
When did you first develop a desire to box?
After I quit school at 17. I was studying engineering at Temasek Poly, but I just wasn’t interested in school at the time. I ended up working in a kitchen at Simpang Bedok, and that place played Boxing After Dark around midnight.
I’d watch that with my colleagues, and because they’re mostly in their thirties and forties, they would always talk about how big the boxing scene was in Singapore back in their day. That got me interested to try, so I enrolled in Kadir’s Boxing School and started training.
You graduated with a Diploma in Sports and Wellness Management. What motivated your return to school after quitting at 17?
Well, I was having a conversation with this kid – he was 16; very naive – and he told me he doesn’t want to go to school because he only wants to box. That’s when I felt bad. I didn’t want to contribute to this perception that boxers are just hooligans who can’t study.
So, I decided to go pursue my diploma at Nanyang Poly (NYP) to prove to him that as a boxer, you can study and do high-level boxing at the same time. It was also at NYP that I met my business partner Fairuz, who started Legends Fight Sport with me.
Share the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur.
It’s been a rollercoaster journey. When we first started, there were many doubters. Coaches in the industry said we were nothing but a bunch of boys running a gym. Yet now, when we send our fighters for big tournaments, we get the most wins.
But it’s not just about competing in the ring. Some of the people who train at Legends fight to overcome struggles or conquer fears that they might have. Some were bullied or went through a painful divorce; others are feeling helpless because they’re unemployed.
I’ve even received letters from prison. People actually write in to express their appreciation for what I do and how much I’ve inspired them not to give up on themselves. That’s very nice to read, and it makes what I do meaningful.
In your formative years, you were under the tutelage of local boxing legend Syed Kadir who’s now President of the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association. What was that experience like?
Coach Kadir only taught me the basics during my first six months with him. I eventually got bored of doing jabs and straight punches, so I decided to leave because I thought this wasn’t for me. But on my last day, he said, “There’s a fight coming up; do you want to compete?”
I jumped at the opportunity, but I somehow lost my first ever amateur fight. When I lost, he came up to me and said, “It isn’t your fault; I made the decision to throw you in there. I treat you like a son and it’s my job to protect you. We will live to fight another day.”
His words made me stay in the sport, and I was back at his gym the next Monday to train. We’re not super close, but there’s a mutual respect and silent understanding between us. I still go back to him to share my thoughts, and he really listens.
You have eight pro fights under your belt now. When did you know you were ready to go pro?
I had always wanted to go pro because I knew it’d help put my gym in the limelight, but what held me back was my desire to get gold at the SEA Games. When I failed to do that four times between 2009 and 2015, I took it as a sign to move on to bigger and better things.
I also knew I needed a new coach – coach Kadir doesn’t want to get involved in the pro scene – so I made the decision to travel to the Philippines to become a pro athlete. Making that move was the defining moment in my boxing career.
The people in the Philippines don’t have much, but they’re willing to give everything they’ve got to achieve their goals. After my first pro fight there, I knew this was the path I needed to be on to elevate my business and Singapore’s boxing scene.
Statistically, the odds were against you when you fought Fadhili Majiha for the UBO belt, but now your Singapore’s very first pro boxing world champion. How does that feel?
It feels like all my hard work and sacrifices paid off. I knew people doubted I could win because Fadhili had gone 12 rounds with really tough opponents before, so for me to win by technical knockout was making a huge statement.
At the end of the day, it’s more about proving something to myself than the haters. I’m contented and happy, but I’m not too obsessed with the win. This is just a step up to something else. The real challenge will come soon; it gets tougher with every fight.
You knocked Fadhili out cold in the fourth round after dropping him a number of times. What was your game plan for him?
We knew he was going to be fast and move around a lot, so the game plan was to pressure him and don’t let him catch his breath. When he gets tired and careless, go for the head.
That’s exactly what I did in the last 10 seconds of the fourth round. He became complacent because he knew the round was going to end, so I punched him in the body and followed that with a right to the top.
I gave it everything I had. If you looked at the video, I was a bit off balance because I put a hundred percent of me into that last punch. It landed and he didn’t get up after that.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be headlining The Roar of Singapore III at Suntec City Convention Centre. I’ll be fighting for the IBO Intercontinental Super Featherweight title. My opponent is Koos Sibiya from South Africa, who’s also known as “The Last Great Warrior”.
He’s a challenge because we couldn’t find any footage of his fights, so we’ll have to figure him out on the day of the fight itself. The plan is to come up with a style that compliments whatever style of fighting an opponent brings.
Ringstar is sponsoring your training at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Vegas to prepare you for your upcoming fight. Were you shocked when you found out?
I didn’t think it was going to happen the first time they mentioned it; I took it lightly. When they eventually showed me the flight and hotel booking confirmation, that’s when it hit me that this is really happening.
That’s what I like about working with (Ringstar Founder) Scott Farrell; he doesn’t make false promises. When I signed my contract with Ringstar, he shared many ideas about bringing local boxing to the next level, and he actually backs them up.
What’s the training expected to be like in Vegas?
I’ll be there for three weeks in August when Mayweather is fighting McGregor, and I’ll be training with Otis Pimpleton. I met him briefly in Singapore when he was the cornerman for an Australian boxer, and I like how he encourages a boxer and imparts knowledge to him.
My coach Rey Caitom Jr is also looking forward to seeing what the best in the world are doing – how they train, how they approach the game, how they spar. I think the sparring will be intense.
Describe the legacy that you want to leave behind.
For me, success was never about being famous or being the first to earn a world title; I’m not so obsessed with personal glory. It’s always been more about building something that will last for the people after me.
Boxing has given me so much. It’s enabled me to go back to school and given me opportunities to train and fight overseas. As someone who is Singaporean born and bred, I have to give back to the local boxing community.
By continuing to win, I hope to generate more media attention and interest in boxing. Hopefully, more coverage of the sport means more people joining the amateur or pro scene. It would be nice to say that my gym and I are major contributing factors to the growth of the sport.
The Roar of Singapore 5
- Date: 29 September 2018
- Venue: Marina Bay Sands
- Get your tickets here
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