Muhamad Ridhwan
Champion Boxer
Nothing captures the drama of rising and falling as vividly as the journey of a boxer.
And Muhamad Ridhwan, or “The Chosen Wan” as he’s known in the ring, knows it all too well – the pressure of turning pro in a sport Singapore has little history in, the pain of defeat, and the exhilaration of doing what you love and knowing that day by day, you’re getting better at it.
Step into the ring for an honest one-on-one with Ridhwan on how he keeps his ambition alive.

How old were you when you first realised you wanted to be a boxer?

“I was 17 going on 18. The people around me then were talking about Singapore’s boxing glory days and that got my interest. I read up online about Singapore's boxing legend, Syed Abdul Kadir, and signed up at his school just to train for fun, nothing serious.”

When did it start to feel less like a daydream and more like a real ambition you had to fulfil?

“After about three months of training, I realised boxing wasn't as exciting as I had imagined. I walked to the gym one day and told myself that I’m going to finish my membership for the month and not do boxing any more. Coincidentally, Coach Kadir informed me about an upcoming friendly fight and asked if I wanted to participate. Without knowing what to expect, I said yes. I lost my first fight. That fight taught me a lot and because of that loss, I’m still boxing today.”

Did your family have any doubts about your choice of career?

“Boxing is very new to them and a lot of other people. Other than the typical stereotype of the sport being linked to gangsterism, there was nothing much for them to expect. However, because of boxing, I got to travel, represented Singapore and with time, got better in the ring. Outside of the ring, I probably became a better, more disciplined individual. They’ve seen me become more focused – I went back to school, and a lot of good things happened that I owe to boxing.”

“I’ve always believed that the people I surround myself with will define the kind of person I become. I’ll mix with everyone without judgement, but I choose who I open up to.”

Along the way, you faced some challenges that discouraged you. Can you share what they were like?

“Losing fights was difficult and painful because it wasn’t easy to get funds to go overseas for tournaments. To travel all the way just to lose was heart-breaking. The greatest disappointment was losing my last fight as an amateur boxer representing Singapore in the 2015 SEA Games. But somehow, I remained resilient and determined. I kept believing in myself and had faith that my sacrifice and hard work would pay off.”

What sort of pressures around drugs did you face along your journey?

“I stopped going to school after secondary school and went into the cooking line. There, I mixed with a lot of older guys who were taking drugs. Many times, these things happened right in front of me. Tempted? Maybe, but at that time, boxing saved me. It kept me focused and helped me to stay away from getting involved.”

Why were you tempted though?

“Because it felt like the normal thing to do. Because I couldn't see that they were suffering from taking drugs. It was unlike what I saw on TV, where drug addicts were stealing money just to get drugs. The ones I knew were doing very well in life – better than me in fact, at that point of time.”

So how did you handle those situations, especially when you were offered?

“The guys respected me. They could see how dedicated I was to boxing. They offered, but after seeing how determined I was to stay clean, they stopped offering. The first few times, I would also just say that I got a fight coming up and was open to random drug testing.”

Were those guys your friends?

“They were close friends whom I worked with and respected very much. Our relationship didn’t change because they didn't force me to do it. When I began going places with boxing, they also stopped taking drugs in front of me. Some I know even managed to stop after seeing how I stayed clean. It took them time but I didn’t force them either. I just tried to be an example of the kind of life they can have without drugs.”

Do you think taking drugs just for fun would have affected your boxing in any way?

“I could become dependent on them and that won’t be good. If I have to rely on drugs to recover my body and perform, not being able to take them will affect me mentally. Moreover, in the lead-up to fights, I have to go for random drug tests, and anything I take will show up in my results, even if they’re not performance enhancers.”

So how do you feed your boxing ambition?

“I train every day, except for Sundays, and spend a lot of time at the gym training people and just being present. Being around people has taught me so much. I can learn about their past, their present, their struggles, hopes and dreams. It keeps me grounded and grateful. Other than boxing, I read comics, and sometimes I cook and spend time thinking of ways to build my other businesses.”

What else helps you to remain focused?

“I’ve always believed that the people I surround myself with will define the kind of person I become. I’ll mix with everyone without judgement, but I choose who I open up to. People know about me, but most do not know me. My close circle of trusted people are those who have been with me from day one, who have been by my side when I was failing, struggling and then eventually winning. They’re not afraid to tell me if I am wrong. I don't need people who will keep saying yes to me.”

“Being around people has taught me so much. I can learn about their past, their present, their struggles, hopes and dreams. It keeps me grounded and grateful.”

Why are you joining the fight against drugs?

“Because they destroy lives, dreams and hopes. The damage is like a ripple effect. It doesn’t affect the user so much, but the people around the user will somehow suffer.”

What advice would you give anyone who’s pursuing their ambition?

“Give it your all, or nothing at all. Your will must be stronger than your skill because there will be a lot of things outside that can distract you. But if you remain focused and dedicated to your craft, nothing can stop you.”

“I lost my first fight. That fight taught me a lot and because of that loss, I’m still boxing today.”

Give Ridhwan's masterclass a go

Read more
stories from: