Boxing: Singapore's Muhammad Ashiq rallies from nightmarish start to win historic WBC Silver title

Singaporean professional boxer Muhammad Ashiq (left) and Indonesian Galih Susanto in action during the World Boxing Council (WBC) International Silver super bantamweight (up to 55kg) title at the Lion City Fury event held on Nov 23.
Singaporean professional boxer Muhammad Ashiq (left) and Indonesian Galih Susanto in action during the World Boxing Council (WBC) International Silver super bantamweight (up to 55kg) title at the Lion City Fury event held on Nov 23.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - He had been thinking about his bout so much that he even started shadow-boxing in his sleep.

But local professional boxer Muhammad Ashiq had to endure a nightmarish start to his dream match for the World Boxing Council (WBC) International Silver super bantamweight (up to 55kg) title before securing a fairy-tale ending to the night with the coveted belt around his waist.

Less than a minute into his fight with Indonesia's Galih Sasanto at at the Lion City Fury event at The Pavilion @ Far East Square last night, the 23-year-old Singaporean was caught with a right cross which knocked him down to the mat.

Susanto, who had a record of 16 wins, seven losses and one draw before his fight with Ashiq - who fought only five times, albeit boasting a perfect record - then went for the jugular, with the dazed Singaporean having to defend a flurry of blows.

More punishment was to follow for Ashiq in the second round when Susanto pulled him to the ground and elbowed him in the head, opening a cut above Ashiq's left eyebrow for which Susanto was deducted one point.

Despite all the chaos, Ashiq somehow managed to compose himself, and started taking the fight to his opponent.

And, after an assured third and fourth round, he found an opening in the fifth, delivering a stiff shot to the right side of Susanto's body to send the Indonesian crumpling onto the mat.

Ashiq's trainer, former national amateur boxer Arvind Lalwani, who had predicted a body shot would clinch the belt for his fighter, heaved a sigh of relief and said: "He showed the heart of a champ.

"To come back from adversity to knock out his opponent like that was sensational."

After posing for photos with many of the over 200 spectators who had climbed into the ring at the end of the night, Ashiq said he was delighted at making history by becoming the first Singaporean to win a WBC belt.

The WBC is one of the world's four major boxing sanctioning bodies alongside the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Association (WBA)

Ashiq's WBC International Silver title is three rungs below its World title, which is associated with names like Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

He said keeping calm was the key to his landmark victory.

"I blacked out a while (in the first round) but that shot didn't hit me," he said.

"And even though he riled me with all the things he did, I know I had to calm myself down, because the referee and everyone else could see what he was doing.

"I still have a lot to work on, but I feel contented because I feel like I've completed the first big step in my boxing career."