No Hollywood ending for S'pore boxers

No Hollywood ending for S'pore boxers
Mohamed Hanurdeen Hamid (in red) lost the gold medal to Ian Clark Bautista in the 28th SEA Games, Boxing Men's Flyweight

It had all the makings of a Hollywood boxing blockbuster, two times over.

Boy gets teased for being overweight, discovers the Sweet Science, gets leaner, meaner and goes on to carry the weight of his under-performing country in the final of a major Games.

Alongside him, a teammate tipped as the dark horse is also in a final - poised to end their country's 30-year wait for a gold medal.

But here's the problem, he goes into the final with a swollen left eye, picked up from a headbutt in the semis.

Infused with Singaporean flavour, at a SEA Games hosted in the nation's 50th anniversary, the story of Tay Jia Wei and Mohamed Hanurdeen Hamid stood on the cusp of its final chapter.

But Singapore boxing didn't get its feel-good Hollywood ending at the Singapore Expo in Changi yesterday.

All it got was another reason to fight on.

Hanurdeen, 21, was blitzed by Filipino Ian Clark Bautista from the first bell, his eye the target of relentless jabs and right hooks. He lost the flyweight bout 2-1 despite a brave performance that ended with his swollen eye virtually shut.

Tay, 20, stood tall against Philippine southpaw Eumir Felix Marcial in the welterweight final, but ended the night early, sent to the mat with a straight-right hook combination he didn't see coming.


The duo were united in their determination to drag themselves back for another shot at glory in the future.

"The doctor said that we should call off the final because of my eye, and I couldn't really see. But I really wanted to win gold," said Hanurdeen.

"To be honest, I thought he won the first two rounds; I was boxing with one eye, and he really caught me.

"I tried to control the fight, but I really couldn't see on my left side. But I've no regrets."

Tay looked shell-shocked even after receiving his silver medal. But he was refreshingly candid about his driving force, as well as his disappointments.

"That feeling of being knocked out, you can't describe it in words, and you can't quite understand unless you've been in the ring," he said.

"This wasn't what I expected - I wanted gold very badly.

"I never doubted myself, but he caught me with a punch that I didn't see.

"But this journey that started in 2011 when I was 16 was definitely worth it - I told my coaches in 2013 that I wanted to win gold at the SEA Games. Fast forward two years, and here I stand."

Singapore national coach Syed Kadir, in contrast, was delighted with his charges.

"The team's performance was excellent, even though they lost - I'm very proud of them," he said.

Even though the sport did not get its fairy-tale ending, Kadir is optimistic about the future.

"It's not just in this first team that we've got good boxers. We got many younger up-and-coming boys who can box. The future is very positive," he added, speaking of a six-year-old boy who was running around the Singapore Expo Hall last night, witnessing first-hand, the fate of Hanurdeen and Tay.

Said Kadir: "I told him that if he wants to win the SEA Games gold medal, he will have to start training now."

Maybe it's that six-year-old who will give Singapore boxing its Hollywood ending.

This article was first published on June 11, 2015.
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