SINGAPORE - He was one of Singapore's eminent boxers over the past decade. Now, Muhamad Ridhwan has swopped his boxing gloves for a trainer's whistle, as he held his first session as co-coach of the national squad on Saturday (June 4) at the Bedok Sports Hall.
The 34-year-old won bronze medals at three consecutive SEA Games from 2011 to 2015. He is partnering another ex-national boxer David Alexis, who clinched a Games bronze himself in 1993, as the Singapore Boxing Federation refreshes its coaching set-up ahead of next year's Games in Cambodia.
At the recent Hanoi SEA Games in May, Singapore was represented by only two boxers - Hanurdeen Hamid and Dinie Hakeem. Bantamweight Hanurdeen was defeated by eventual champion Ian Bautista of the Philippines in the quarter-finals, while Dinie claimed a bronze after losing to Cambodia's Phearak Ong in the heavyweight semi-final.
On Saturday, Ridhwan and Alexis shared the revised, thrice-weekly training programme with the national squad.
Among the new initiatives Ridhwan will introduce is monthly individual reports for boxers, to chart their training progress, strengths and weaknesses.
He said: "What's unique about my experience is that I competed as a boxer who is quite adapted to the current culture, challenges and difficulties faced by Singaporean boxers.
"I know what they feel and think about, their worries... It goes beyond the technical aspects of coaching."
Staying motivated, he added, is a big challenge for local boxers. Ridhwan hopes this can be addressed through the new individual reports, as well as structured training and competition plans.
He said: "When you have some people in the team or management that believes in you or cares about you, not necessarily in terms of money but in terms of a structure and giving you a goal to work towards, I think that would help a lot."
He is also looking forward to his partnership with Alexis, saying their combined experiences would benefit the current athletes.
"I think we will work very well. I've been under him before, I know how he works, and he knows how I think too. It will be a good combination," said Ridhwan, who went into professional boxing after the 2015 Games on home soil but has since retired with a record of 15 wins and two losses.
Alexis, 54, has previously worked with national boxers, including Ridhwan, for various SEA Games campaigns but was only formally brought into the fold last December.
He said: "From today's session, the athletes seem to be responding very well. We're excited to see how this will go forward. Ridhwan is young and has good ideas."
Hanurdeen said the new set-up has energised the athletes.
“I feel more motivated by the changes,” said the 28-year-old, who clinched a silver and two bronze medals at three consecutive Games from 2015 to 2019.
"Wan was my teammate for a very long time, and I've heard him talking about the ideas he had for boxing even when he was an athlete, and now he is executing them as a coach.
"The technique of our previous coaches was a bit old-school... but I think (Ridhwan and Alexis) bring a more modern approach. I believe it's going to work."