Heartbreak at the end for Muhamad Ridhwan in title bid

Namibia's Paulus Ambunda has Singapore's Muhamad Ridhwan on the ropes in their International Boxing Organisation super bantamweight world title bout at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre last night. The judges scored 115-113, 116-111, 112-115 in Ambu
Namibia's Paulus Ambunda has Singapore's Muhamad Ridhwan on the ropes in their International Boxing Organisation super bantamweight world title bout at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre last night. The judges scored 115-113, 116-111, 112-115 in Ambunda's favour.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

S'porean loses by split decision to Ambunda, who proves the better and more experienced fighter

Muhamad Ridhwan last night left the ring vanquished for the first time as a professional boxer, but vowed that the defeat will only make him work harder.

The Singaporean, 30, was bested by veteran Namibian Paulus Ambunda, who won their 12-round bout via split decision to claim the vacant International Boxing Organisation (IBO) super bantamweight world title in front of over 2,000 fans at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

The win boosted Ambunda's record to 27 wins and two losses.

Before last night, Ridhwan, who less than three years ago was cleaning toilets at a cramped dormitory in Cebu in the Philippines, trying to prove he could cut it in professional boxing, had 11 wins in 11 fights.

He said: "It was a good fight, I think a close one too.

"I'm disappointed I didn't win, of course. But I'm glad the fans got to see an exciting fight, and that they knew this wasn't a case of a fight being made for the homeboy to win."

Ambunda had previously won the IBO and World Boxing Organisation world titles, and was easily the toughest test in Ridhwan's burgeoning career.

CLOSE BUT JUST NOT ENOUGH

It was a good fight, I think a close one too. I'm disappointed... But I'm glad the fans got to see an exciting fight, and that they knew this wasn't a case of a fight being made for the homeboy to win.

MUHAMAD RIDHWAN, who was aiming to become Singapore's first boxing world champion.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Ridhwan is a good fighter, but he needs to improve his jab and counter punch. He is too open, and I could see his punches coming.

PAULUS AMBUNDA, his Namibian opponent, who used his experience to control the 12-round bout.

HE WILL COME GOOD

Ridhwan may not have won tonight, but he showed he is ready. One day he will be world champion, mark my words.

SCOTT O' FARRELL, founder of Roar of Singapore organiser Ringstar.

The seasoned 38-year-old Namibian's skill showed, as he controlled most of the first half of the contest (up to 55kg), delivering hard bodyshots to the home favourite.

But Ridhwan appeared galvanised in the second half, and never looked overawed as he went toe-to-toe with his rival.

The judges' scorecards, however, favoured Ambunda, as the fight was scored 115-113, 116-111, 112-115.

Ambunda said: "Ridhwan is a good fighter, but he needs to improve his jab and counter-punch.

"He is too open, and I could see his punches coming."

Ridhwan had no regrets and left everything out on the ring in his quest to put his name alongside the likes of Manny Pacquaio, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Lennox Lewis, all former IBO world champions.

"I tried by best, but tonight was just not my night," he said.

"The game plan was perfect, but he knew what I was trying to do and made it difficult for me."

He was not about to wallow in his setback, though. "The greats have lost," he said. "It's all about coming back, and I'm still hungry to win."

Scott O' Farrell, founder of Roar of Singapore organiser Ringstars said: "Ridhwan may not have won tonight, but he showed he is ready.

"One day he will be world champion, mark my words."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 30, 2018, with the headline 'Heartbreak at the end for Ridhwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe