Silver lining for Singapore boxing

Team's unprecedented medal haul to become a catalyst for further success

THE Philippines continued to dominate the regional boxing scene, while traditional powerhouses Thailand remain strong, with famous names such as last year's Asian Games champion Wuttichai Masuk winning golds at the SEA Games.

But other neighbouring nations are slowly but surely punching above their weights to take a slice of the medal pie in the sport.

Hosts Singapore, who have won only a handful of bronzes since 1993, found two young pugilists - Mohamed Hanurdeen Hamid and Tay Jia Wei - who each broke through to secure silvers at the Singapore Expo Hall 1 yesterday.

Both tried hard to earn the Republic a first boxing gold since 1985, but found themselves facing top Filipino boxers in their respective finals.

Nevertheless, the two-silver, four-bronze showing was their best effort since 1993, even though both Hanurdeen and Tay felt they could have done more.

Against 20-year-old Ian Clark Bautista in the men's flyweight final, Hanurdeen was hampered by a large bruise below his left eye after a clash of heads in his semi-final bout.

While the 21-year-old managed to thwart Bautista's attempts to go for the bruise, he was unable to attack, having to fight essentially with only one eye open.

The eventual loss by split decision stung, as a teary Hanurdeen said: "I've sacrificed so much, words can't describe how much, just to get to this final. I didn't want the silver, only gold."

Added national coach Syed Kadir: "If (Hanurdeen) had been fighting at 100 per cent, without the injury, he would have taken the gold."

Tay was knocked out in the welterweight final by 2011 world junior champion Eumir Felix Marcial. The Filipino's physical edge told when a straight right punch landed squarely on Tay's jaw to send him crashing to the canvas.

The 19-year-old Singaporean was displeased with his performance in front of a raucous home crowd.

"I really wanted the win so badly, I'm disappointed with myself." he said.

"I've only fought 19 fights so far, so my lack of ring experience compared to (Marcial) was the difference in the end."

Despite the losses, Singapore's co-chef de mission Nicholas Fang is optimistic about the sport's growth in the future.

He said: "We have to bear in mind there are world-class boxers in South-east Asia. For us to be duking it out for the medals is an achievement already.

"Hopefully, this showing can be a catalyst for the local boxing scene to build on."

If there is a country Singapore can try and emulate, it is Vietnam, who clinched three well-deserved golds yesterday.

Their fighters' tenacity caught the eye, in particular women's bantamweight boxer Le Thi Bang.

The unfancied 23-year-old had beaten the 2013 SEA Games gold medallist Peamwilai Laopeam of Thailand in the quarter-finals, and she stormed to gold yesterday by edging out 2013 Games silver medallist Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines by split decision.

"I am very happy to have won. Our techniques and tactics are equally good, but I was patient and took my chances," she said.

They will be looking to eventually challenge the Philippines' supremacy, although the Filipinos continue to rule the roost in South-east Asia, snaring five golds and three silvers.

As their head coach Patricio Gaspi said: "Our boxers are ripe, they have good exposure, good training. They are ready."

jslow@sph.com.sg

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