He used to be a playful and lazy boy. But now 20-year-old Mohamed Hanurdeen Hamid (above) is staying focused and pursuing his passion - boxing. And he credits his mother for inspring him to work hard.
Hanurdeen and his two brothers, Mohamed Hanif and Mohamed Ajmil, were single-handedly raised by their mother Jarina Begum. She works at an Indian rojak stall in Little India and was the sole breadwinner of the family while they were growing up.
"My mum leaves as early as 3am for work and it is not easy for her to raise and support three boys. But she still has and until today encourages me. Her support and strength inspires me," says Hanurdeen, who has taken part in the SEA Games and Youth Olympics and received several bursary awards including the SINDA Excellence Award in 2012.
Before he turned to boxing, the final-year student pursuing a Higher Nitec in Sports Management at ITE Choa Chu Kang says that he was a mischievious, playful and lazy boy while in primary school.
"I would often get caught for disclipinary issues such as playing with the fire extinguisher and giving my teacher problems."
However, things changed when he entered secondary school. Because of his discipline problems, Hanurdeen's older brother Hanif, who runs his own business, took him for boxing lessons to keep his mind occupied.
"My brother took up boxing training to keep fit. He wanted me to be occupied and not be distracted by other things, so he said to give it a try and took me along. From there my interest developed and I just kept training and now it's a passion and a dream to do well in the sport," says Hanurdeen.
His mindset started to change as he became stronger mentally and physically as a result of the boxing training. Looking at how hard his mum was working for him and his brothers, he started to discipline himself and he became more confident.
"My mum is a big inspiration to me. She has a strong heart and seeing how she worked so hard impacted my life and made me realise the importance of my life."
Through his boxing club, U2 CAN Format for Combat, which is recognised by the Singapore Olympic Council and is affiliated with Singapore Boxing Federation, Hanurdeen was chosen to represent Singapore in the Asian Youth Championships followed by the Youth Olympic Games 2010 (YOG) held in Singapore, where he attained fourth position in the 48Kg Light Fly Weight discipline. He also participated in the SEA Games in 2011 and 2013.
"My first major competition was nerve-racking. My mind suddenly went blank when I saw other boxers."
However, the YOG was special for Hanurdeen as it was the first and only time that his mum had watched him in the ring.
"My mum, until now, is fearful to see me in the ring as she thinks I will get hurt. But she was asked by my coaches to come for the YOG and she did," says Hanurdeen.
Unfortunately, he lasted only three rounds."I know I gave my best, so the defeat did not matter. I just lacked experience. The next time she watches me, I am sure I will perform better," he says.
It was also during the YOG that Hanurdeen got a chance to speak to legendary boxer Manny Pacquiao.
"It was a phone conversation. Manny was in Singapore and wanted to speak to Singapore's boxer. I was the lone boxer representing the country and was told by the secretary of the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association about this. It was a priceless feeling. Whatever Manny said to me gave me a boost and until today those words ring in my head.
"He told me that the boxers in the ring are equal and they are humans too. This advice and the motivation to win keeps me going and when I lose I just keep trying harder," he adds.
Hanurdeen has had to make sacrifices to indulge in his passion for boxing. He trains six days a week, going for fitness training in the mornings before school and boxing training in the afternoons. He also has to follow a special diet plan.
"I am currently at 56kg and 168cm in height and am training for the 52kg fly weight discipline. Closer to tournaments, I will have to cut down on my carbohydrates and take more proteins. Junk food is out for me and I am allowed only water, a certain proportion of energy foods and isotonic drinks after training," he shares.
Unlike other youths his age, the quiet and reserved Hanurdeen does not get the time to meet up with friends often.
"I don't mind not meeting friends as often because boxing makes me happy. I have to sleep early and wake up early, so I can't hang out late. On Sundays when I am free I sometimes meet up with my friends."
There have also been times in the past seven years that Hanurdeen, who is awaiting admission into Republic Polytechnic for a diploma in sports coaching, has had to skip school for his sport.
"When I took part in the YOG, I had to defer my O levels for a year. After that I found it hard to get back on track, hence on my teachers' suggestion I decided to go to the ITE. I am hoping to get a diploma before I go into the army," he says.
Hanurdeen's dream is to represent Singapore in the Olympics. "Right now I am training for the next SEA Games but my ultimate goal is the Olympics. I want to do better than my coach, who also took part in the Olympics and lasted till the second round," he says.
Said his coach of seven years, Mr T. Balasundram, who is the vice-president of the Singapore Boxing Federation: "Hanurdeen is a true dedicated sportsman who is very humble. He loves his country and has a very unique attitude. He has improved a lot and the boxing committee has been selecting him to participate in major competitions.
"I am sure he can beat my record and fulfil his dream. I will continue to support him all the way. He trusts me and I see the potential in him."
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