“I started boxing at the age of 13. What really got me into it was my first sparring session. My coach asked me to spar a girl but I really didn’t want to. I asked if I could spar a guy my size instead and he said, ‘You don’t talk so much. Just get in there and spar.’

So I went into the ring and told myself, ‘Okay, let’s just take it easy. She’s a girl. No point in beating her up.’ But she ended up beating me up. She landed so many punches on my face and body! Nobody knows this but I cried after that sparring session.

It was from that point on that I started taking boxing more seriously. In a way, I’m very thankful for that experience. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have had this much desire to improve or gone as far as I have in my amateur boxing journey.

I’ve been boxing for the past 10 to 11 years now so I was honestly very affected by this circuit breaker, both mentally and emotionally. I’ve never taken such a long break before. Suddenly, there is no contact work allowed and there are no fights scheduled.

I spoke to a sports psychologist who’s very close to me and she told me since no contact work is allowed, why don’t I focus on my fitness instead? Also, use this time to reflect on what it is that I want to achieve in boxing and how I should move forward in this sport.

Do I want to compete as a pro or stay amateur? That question has been on my mind a lot lately because people keep asking me when I’m making that transition. It took me some time to figure it out but now I’m 100 percent sure that I’m not turning professional.

Unless there is an offer that I’ll be too stupid to decline, the pro scene is just not for me. It’s all about business, you know? And I’ll be frank with you. I personally think there are no quality bouts for me in Singapore’s pro boxing scene.

In pro boxing, your promoter will try to build you up by making you fight easy fights, just so you’ll have an impressive record. It’s only after a certain number of fights that you’ll start facing real, quality competition. I’m not really a fan of that.

Beating someone who can barely box but looks good on paper just so I can win a belt doesn’t give me any satisfaction. That’s not my purpose. The reason why I started boxing was to fight the best and to do well in the regional and international games.

My dream was to qualify for the Olympics; but, after re-assessing my goals and the circumstances we’re living in, my focus is now on the local championships and the next SEA Games. Those are more realistic targets.

I’ve been to five different SEA Games. My first two SEA Games, I lost in the first round. After experiencing those losses, I trained even harder and managed to win medals in my next three SEA Games – one silver and two bronze.

From winning nothing to getting the podium finish was something I was very proud of. People say Singapore can’t do great things in boxing but me winning medals and losing by only a slight margin against gold medalists shows that it’s not impossible.

That’s why I’m grateful for people who have supported me in my journey like Mrs Lim Hwee Hwa, a former MP who helped linked me with my current sponsor Summit Power International. They’ve covered most of my training expenses.

Thanks to them, I’ve trained in countries like Cuba, India and Sri Lanka and seen firsthand how their national teams train. Cuba, which is the top boxing nation, doesn’t even have the necessary resources but they have a good system put in place because boxing is their core sport.

Now that I’m training at Legends Fight Sport, I also have access to more coaches and training partners. Because I’m in the second lightest weight class, my partners were usually bigger. They’re strong but the speed is different. Now, I get to train with more people my size.

At the end of the day, I strongly believe in working with what you have. I feel it’s within my capability to put on the best performance; it’s just a matter of how much work I’m willing to put in to see the desired results.

I’ve set myself a time frame to achieve my goal at the SEA Games. I’ve sacrificed so many job opportunities that could have given me a stable income because being an athlete had always come first. But I don’t regret it because this sport has given me so much.

I’ve never told anybody this, but ever since I won my first tournament at 14, I would put my gold medal around my mother’s neck. I’m not sure why I do this; maybe it gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that I can make her proud.

But as soon as I win gold at the SEA Games, that’s it. I want to do nothing with boxing anymore. That’s the end of my journey. I just want to put that gold medal around my mother’s neck once and know that I’ve achieved what I had set out to do.” – Hanurdeen, 26

Interview by: Arman Shah