When she started boxing in 2006, Nurshahidah Roslie's only wish was to make it to the national squad and represent Singapore, a feat which she eventually accomplished three years later.
Now, 10 years on and with 15 fights under her belt, the 28-year-old is on the cusp of making history by becoming the first Singaporean female boxer to go professional out of a pool of about seven competitive boxers.
She is slated to make her pro debut in the lightweight (61.3kg) category at the Singapore Fighting Championships (SFC) on Feb 20.
On why she continues to box after making it to the national team, she said: "Just like any career, you start from the bottom and when you realise what you can do, you yearn for more challenges.
"So why stop at nationals? I'm still representing Singapore, just at a much higher level now."
Nurshahidah was first exposed to martial arts after watching a black-and-white P. Ramlee Malay film, Jangan Tinggal Daku, which featured silat.
She said: "Since then, I have always wanted to do a certain form of martial arts and I came to know of taekwondo in secondary school.
"But I was looking for something more challenging and soon my friend introduced me to kickboxing in ITE and since then, I was hooked.
"As I developed the hunger to do more in combat sports, I realised that my strength and potential was in boxing. That was why I switched from kickboxing to boxing."
And while the fighter has amassed more losses than wins throughout her amateur boxing career with a 5-1-9 (win-draw-loss) record, she insists that moving to the professional league is the right move for her.
Said the Juggernaut Fight Club member: "After boxing for about eight years, I felt that I did not have enough fight experience and that was hindering my progress as a boxer. Most of my losses came about due to inexperience. I was up against more experienced fighters who fought at least 10 fights a year, as compared to my one or two fights a year.
Even though she crashed out in her first fight in the featherweight division at last year's SEA Games, she decided to follow through her desire to turn professional.
"By doing so, it gives me the opportunity to have more experience and allows me to build up my boxing career because there are more fights happening," she said. "With experience, the wins will come."
Her coach, Arvind Lalwani, added: "Opportunities for female fighters are very scarce, so for major competitions like the SEA Games, she just gets pushed into the lion's den because of the lack of practice.
"She is at her peak right now, so I want to make sure I build on that and develop her. I want to get her at least five fights this year and put her in a position to gain experience and eventually fight for a championship."
Nurshahidah will face an uphill task in her SFC bout, as she is slated to face Ella Tang of Malaysia, a professional fighter in mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and kickboxing who has over 20 professional fights in total in all three disciplines.
Still, she remains unfazed and confident in her ability, saying: "I have always fought people who are more experienced than me so it is just another fight for me.
"When you step into the ring, the odds are always 50-50 but I am confident that I will give a good fight. I have been training really hard, six times a week for a minimum of two hours, so in terms of skills and endurance, I think I can manage."
All that hard work is put in for a purse of only $500, but Nurshahidah says it is her love for the sport and her wish to be a trailblazer for other aspiring women boxers that spurs her, not the money.
The 28-year old, who also works at Juggernaut Fight Club, and earns a basic salary of $1,800 as a receptionist and a personal trainer, said: "I box in the name of the sport and for the experience.
"I can make a few thousand dollars if I continue to climb the ranks and win fights but I don't do it for the money, so I am grateful for whatever amount I am getting.
"I really hope to see more women picking up this sport so that when the current women boxers hang their gloves, there are people coming in and taking their places."
- Tickets to the SFC - priced at $48 - Is available at Juggernaut Fight Club and the Singapore Fighting Championships website.
This article was first published on February 10, 2016.
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