“When I was five, my mom was diagnosed with a very rare illness called the motor neuron disease. She could simply be walking one day and suddenly fall down because she lost control of her movements, so it wasn’t very safe to leave her alone at home.
Her condition worsen a year later, and none of the doctors in Singapore could cure her. My dad and her sister brought her to China to undergo an operation, but when she came back, she got even worse. She couldn’t even move anymore and had to lie down all the time.
Eventually, she lost her ability to talk. Everytime she wanted to say something, we’d have to grab a pen and paper with letters of the alphabet written on it. Whenever we pointed to the correct letter, she’d blink her eye, and that’s how she would form her sentences.
She passed away in 2009; I was just nine then. I was in school and got called down to the general office, and that’s when I saw my aunt with a sad look on her face. When she told me that my mom had passed away, I couldn’t really digest it. It was too much for me to cope.
I think the hardest part about her death was realising that the person you love so much was gone. I’d wake up in the morning and wouldn’t see her anymore. And you know she’s not gone for days or months. She’s gone forever, and you don’t know if you’ll ever see her again.
When she left, I felt like I had to solve every problem thrown at me on my own, even though I was only a kid at the time. That was a low point not only for me but for my brothers as well. It affected our academic performance and we started getting into a lot of fights in school.
We were angry because the other kids would rub the fact that our mother had died in our faces. They would insult us and bring it up just to trigger us. Her death was still a very sensitive topic and I got very pissed every time someone mentioned her infront of me.
We would complain to our dad first, and he would always advise us to tell the teachers instead of taking things into our own hands. But the teachers always took our complaints lightly. They’d just warn the students once and that would be the end of it.
The other kids would confront us later on because we told on them. I didn’t want them to say anything bad about my mother anymore, so everytime they did, I would just beat them up. My brothers reacted the same way too. We started dealing with the problem our own way.
It reached a breaking point when someone I offended got a group of his friends to gather around me with knives in their hands. Nothing happened; they just threatened me. But as a parent, my dad was very worried.
Ever since my mom passed away, my dad had to do everything, from running his own business to managing the household and sending us to school. He couldn’t be with us all the time, so he enrolled us in martial arts school so that we could learn to defend ourselves.
I was 12 when I started boxing. I enjoyed the feeling when I hit the bags for the first time. It wasn’t anger-related; there was nothing emotional about it. It just felt like boxing was something I could commit myself to.
I trained every single day from Monday to Saturday while I was still studying in ITE. I would go to the gym straight away after school. I’d always check the bus timing, and as soon as class ended, I would grab my bag and run to the bus stop to catch my bus.
I started competing when I was 14. My first fight was at an event held by Legends Fight Sport. Even though my opponent was two years older, I was confident going into that fight as I was always the youngest in the gym and sparring guys bigger and older than I was.
After I won, (pro boxer and Legends co-founder) Ridhwan invited me to train with his fight team. I eventually joined Legends in 2015 when I got more serious about boxing. It was good to train at a gym that was affiliated with the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association.
I trained hard and won all of my fights, but I suffered my first loss at 16 at the 2016 National Championships. I was devastated. After everything that I had went through in life, winning to me felt like overcoming an obstacle, so when I lost for the first time, I couldn’t really accept it.
It’s quite dramatic now that I think back upon it. My brother competes too and he doesn’t take it too hard when he loses. Now that I’m older, I’ve learnt that amateur boxing is not for me if I get emotional every single time I lose. I just need to pick myself up again.
My goal now is to go as far as I can with boxing while I still have the time. I would like to win my first overseas tournament. It’s unfortunate to lose, but I guess it’s good to lose now and progress from here on out. Nationals is also coming up and I hope to do well for that.
If my mum was still alive, I would probably want to share my boxing experiences with her. I was only nine when she passed away so we didn’t really get to communicate much. She might disapprove of my boxing, but I’d still like to tell her about my time competing overseas.
What would I like to tell my dad? I want him to know that I really respect him a lot. We know it hasn’t been easy for him being a dad and a mom at the same time. He used to be short-tempered, but ever since our mom passed away, he toned down a lot and really shows us a lot of care and love.
My brothers and I want to thank him for helping us become the people we are today. Even though he doesn’t want anything in return, we hope to pay him back for everything he’s done for us one day.” – Velvan, 19
Interview by: Arman Shah