“I started mixing with secret society members when I was 15. A part of it was because my family didn’t show me the same kind of care or love that these people did. I discovered later on that this love was all fake, of course.

My parents used to beat me quite often. We faced a lot of financial difficulties and lived in a very simple household. I didn’t go to the movies, hang out with friends or play with toys like other kids my age. Even buying school books was a problem for me.

I was also bullied a lot in secondary school. Classmates would hit me and push me around. They’d make fun of my skin tone and call me black. They liked calling me a nerd, too. I was a very quiet kid. I never fought back or stood up for myself.

I joined the secret society because it made me feel safe and accepted. As the days went by, I tried drinking, smoking and drugs. It also felt like a competition. You wanted to be infamous, so you’d beat rival gang members or even innocent people up for recognition.

From 2012 to 2014, I spent time at the juvenile home for voluntarily causing grievous hurt. I then spent about 29 months at the Reformative Training Centre (RTC) for another crime that was similar in nature. I was released from prison in 2018.

What happened? We used a weapon to hurt someone. It wasn’t a nice thing to do. The victim from the second incident almost died due to loss of blood. We used a watermelon knife so you can imagine how bad the injuries were. His hand was permanently paralysed.

I received 15 strokes of the cane for my crime. I was so proud to be one of the top three RTC mates to get the most number of strokes. Now, I just feel stupid thinking about it. Nothing I ever did was for me. It was all for the secret society.

A real friend should tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. They shouldn’t be hyping you up and making you feel good about yourself just so you’d do things for them, things that are clearly wrong. I spent my time in isolation reflecting on this.

When I was in prison, my counsellor Sergeant Azmie told me that since I like to fight so much, why not fight in the ring instead? He told me I was smart but I was letting my friends control me. I can think for myself; don’t be their puppet. I took his advice to heart.

One day, I came across an 8 Days magazine and saw a picture of Muhamad Ridhwan. I was like who is this Shirtless Guy of the Week? The Chosen Wan? I read his achievements and was shocked. I’d never met a Singaporean go this far in boxing before.

I became an instant fanboy. Everyone else in prison was cutting up pictures of inspiring fighters like Conor Mcgregor, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. I, on the other hand, had pictures of Muhamad Ridhwan. I know it sounds creepy but he was my inspiration.

When I found out that he’s coaching at Legends Fight Sport, I told my counsellor that I wanted to meet him one day. It didn’t matter if I became a cleaner and I didn’t care how much he was willing to pay me; as long as he gave me an opportunity to box, I’ll be happy.

Before I contacted him at the beginning of the year, I was someone who looked down upon myself. I didn’t think someone like Ridhwan would accept me. Furthermore, I had some fees to settle and I didn’t have the money to train at Legends Fight Sport.

He told me, ‘It’s okay, you can train here. You pay when you have enough money.’ I was thinking ‘Is this guy serious?!’ I told my team leader at work about this and he said that if someone sees potential in you and wants you to be better, he will definitely invest in you.

I didn’t expect him to do what he did but I’m grateful. I’ve fought under the Legends name once now. It was a short notice fight but I’m grabbing whatever opportunities that are given to me. I won’t make any excuses. I just hope to make Ridhwan proud one day.

For me personally, I aim to go to the SEA Games and the Olympics one day. My goal is to get the gold medal in these tournaments. I want to achieve these amateur targets first before turning professional. I’m not going to rush anything.

Outside of boxing, I hope to get married by the age of 28; but, I don’t even have a girlfriend right now, hahaha. And I hope to continue earning a stable income as well. I don’t know, I just want to be a good role model and inspire others to do what’s right.

Without my faith, family, boxing and work, I feel like my life is meaningless. I need all four of these pillars to be happy, so I can’t wait for this circuit breaker to be over so that I can go back to training. No boxing, no life!” – Shakur, 24

Interview by: Arman Shah

This story is part of an interview series called People of Legends, a collaboration with Legends Fight Sport. To read more click here.