Boxing's down... but not out

Pictures by: 
Ariffin Jamar
Report by: 
Jennifer Dhanaraj

Mixed martial arts may be proliferating the combat sports scene, but the stalwarts of local boxing are not throwing in the towel. “It may not be talked about much, but it is not dying,” insists former Singapore Olympian Syed Abdul Kadir.

The 65-year-old was the 1969 and 1971 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games gold medallist, and is the current president of the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association. He is keeping the flame alive. While many boxing schools have closed over the years, his school – one of five that are left – at the Singapore Judo Federation headquarters on Guillemard Crescent survives.

When we visited Kadir’s Boxing School last week, he was keeping a keen eye on a new batch of students. Sitting at a table, Mr Kadir doled out individualised instructions to each aspiring fighter, who range from students to expats.

And under his tutelage, new talent is blossoming. One of the fighters training hard amid the loud thumps of punching bags being hit is 26-year-old Muhammad Solihin Nordin. He will be representing Singapore in the bantamweight category at his first Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Myanmar later this year.

Mr Solihin counts his daily visits to Mr Kadir’s school as essential to his SEA Games preparations. He hardly kept still during the time TNPS visited the school. He could be seen shadow boxing, skipping and working at different stations to improve his technique.

“I simply love to fight – with rules, of course,” says Mr Solihin cheekily while stretching. He knows that he can count on the experience of Mr Kadir, who represented Singapore at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

And there is no let up with the old boxer. Besides working on his strength, Mr Kadir is training the young fighter’s agility with drills like skipping and circuit training. “They need to be light-footed. It doesn’t come naturally,” says the grizzled veteran. He hopes that boxing will win medals at
the upcoming SEA games so that the sport can get more publicity.

Mr Kadir says: “Boxing is a timeless sport and people need to be reminded of that once in a while. But it will never die out.”

The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on September 1, 2013.