Dream win after nightmare start

Singapore's Muhammad Ashiq (left) landing a left on Indonesian Galih Susanto during their World Boxing Council International Silver super bantamweight title bout yesterday.
Singapore's Muhammad Ashiq (left) landing a left on Indonesian Galih Susanto during their World Boxing Council International Silver super bantamweight title bout yesterday.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Ashiq recovers from first-round knockdown to become first Singaporean to win WBC belt

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

But local professional boxer Muhammad Ashiq's dream match of claiming the World Boxing Council (WBC) International Silver super bantamweight (up to 55kg) title almost turned into a nightmare yesterday.

The 23-year-old ended the night with the belt around his waist - making history as the first Singaporean to win a WBC title - but not without a harrowing start to his evening.

Less than a minute into his fight with Indonesia's Galih Susanto in the Lion City Fury event at The Pavilion @ Far East Square last night, he 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, then went for the jugular, with the dazed Singaporean having to defend a flurry of blows.

More punishment was to follow in the second round for the 23-year-old Ashiq - who had fought only five times, all wins - when Susanto pulled him to the ground and elbowed him in the head, opening a cut above the Singaporean's left eyebrow for which the Indonesian 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, had predicted a body shot would win his fighter the belt. He heaved a sigh of relief and said: "Ashiq 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.

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 victory.

"I blacked out a while (in the first round) but that shot didn't hurt me," he said. "And even though he angered me with all the things he did, I knew I had to calm down, because the referee and everyone else could see what he was doing.

"As you can see, I still have a lot to work on. But I feel content, because I feel like I've completed the first big step I wanted in my boxing career."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Dream win after nightmare start'. Print Edition | Subscribe