“I first got involved with boxing in 2005; it was during a PE session at the Oklahoma City University. I was pursuing a mass comm degree at the time, and we had to choose between basketball and boxing.

I wasn’t tall enough for the hoops, so I chose boxing. It was close to winter and freezing cold, but I was sweating like crazy after just one session of boxing. I thought this was a good way to lose weight, and it got me excited to join a boxing gym after I graduated.

When I returned to Singapore, I was just a fresh grad trying to find work. I managed to get a contract job in the comms department at the Singapore Sports Council. It was on my last day that I was introduced to Coach Syed Kadir.

I didn’t know anything about him or his legacy at the time, but Kadir’s Boxing School was coincidentally the first gym I discovered when researching places to box in Singapore. I figured his gym must be good, so I got the address and started training there the week after.

Coach Kadir was actually busy preparing for an upcoming tournament when I first joined. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, there’s a competition?!’ I was quite ignorant about the local boxing scene back then, so I decided to check it out. That’s how I met the now-infamous Ridhwan.

Ridhwan had his first ever fight in that tournament. When I found out he was alone, I told him I’d support him since I didn’t know anyone else. Little did I know I’d be supporting him for the next 13 years.

He was only 18 then, and he lost his first fight. As soon as the bell rang, his opponent bulldozed towards him, and the next thing I knew, Coach Kadir threw in the white towel. But what Coach Kadir said to him after the fight really changed my perspective on boxing.

He said, ‘You lost this match; but, it was on me, not on you. It was my decision to throw in the towel because I treat you like my godson. Everyone representing the gym is my family. Please do not give up. Just get better.’ His words were so motivational!

From that moment on, I was inspired to be a mentor, and the rest is pretty much history. I’m a gym manager at Legends Fight Sport now. When Ridhwan approached me in 2014 to start our own gym, I didn’t hesitate; I followed him.

I would like to think of myself as the friendly face of the gym, and at this stage, I’m very interested in building awareness of boxing to people from all walks of life.  I’m also with the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association with Coach Kadir, and my goal is to break barriers and develop the local boxing scene.

With so many boxing gyms in Singapore, I hope to create a healthy competitive environment where we can sieve out real talents to represent the country and put Singapore boxing on the map.” – Khairizal, 36


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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.