National Day supplement

Celebrating Singapore's sporting spirit: Punching above his weight to nurture young talent

More than four decades after becoming a coach, Mr Syed Abdul Kadir retains his zeal for nurturing young talent, having overseen the development of several generations of local boxers. His influence also led some of his former students to take up coac
More than four decades after becoming a coach, Mr Syed Abdul Kadir retains his zeal for nurturing young talent, having overseen the development of several generations of local boxers. His influence also led some of his former students to take up coaching themselves.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

For some, the fullest expression of a life dedicated to sport is found only after they have stepped away from the arena, helping others follow in their footsteps.

Mr Syed Abdul Kadir was 27 when he retired from competitive boxing in 1976 - just four years after competing in the Olympics - saying he did not enjoy the sport any more.

That might have been it for his involvement with the sweet science but for a remark from then International Boxing Association secretary-general Anwar Chowdhry.

"He came up to me after my last event and said 'I've seen your colourful career in boxing. Why not concentrate now on bringing up youngsters?'," said Mr Kadir.

"I thought about it and decided to give coaching a try."

More than four decades later, the 69-year-old retains his zeal for nurturing young talent, having overseen the development of several generations of local boxers.

Among them is Muhammad Ridwhan, the first Singaporean to win a world boxing title, who picked up the sport at 17 under Mr Kadir's tutelage.

Boxers are very sensitive people. You cannot lie to them. If you promise them something... you must make sure that you do it... As long as I'm still strong, I will continue... Retirement is not in my vocabulary.

MR SYED ABDUL KADIR, 69, who retired from competitive boxing in 1976 at the age of 27 and went on to coach others.

The 29-year-old embraced his former coach tearily after clinching the Universal Boxing Organisation world super featherweight title in May - making him the first Singaporean to win a world boxing title - and said then that the person who helped him achieve all his success was Mr Kadir.

"When I heard that, I felt so... I don't know what to say. He's such a gentleman," said Mr Kadir. "I'm satisfied when my students become good. It's not my work, it's their work that brought them there."

His influence has led some of his former students to take up coaching themselves, such as Juggernaut Fight Club owner Arvind Lalwani, who coaches 2015 SEA Games silver medallist Tay Jia Wei.

While his training methods involve a lot of learning of the desired techniques and achieving levels of fitness, coaching goes beyond just the mechanical for Mr Kadir.

He said: "Boxers are very sensitive people. You cannot lie to them. If you promise them something, like sending them to a competition, you must make sure that you do it."

Despite his advancing years, Singapore's lone boxing Olympian to date has no intention of calling it a day.

"As long as I'm still strong, I will continue... Retirement is not in my vocabulary," said Mr Kadir.


Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity. 

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Punching above his weight to nurture young talent'. Print Edition | Subscribe