Tough but woman enough

FOCUSED: Miss Tiffany Teo (seated) and Miss Nur Shiren.

Her fight name is Cupcake.

But in the ring, she is anything but delicate and soft.

National team boxer Nur Shiren is light on her feet and quick with her punches.

Outside of the ring, she is into poetry and baking. She says: "I've actually performed in poetry slams. I love to bake as well."

Baking and boxing? Miss Shiren does not find the contrast strange, saying: "Your life doesn't just have to be one thing. You can do many different things with your life."

The 23-year-old psychology student, who is in her final year at university, has to juggle time between completing her thesis and daily training at the Juggernaut Fight Club at Boat Quay.

She has been a fighter since June last year.

"It's quite funny. Initially, I planned to have only one fight and then I told myself I was going to focus on school.But Arvind had actually already scheduled my second fight before I even had my first. And I loved it so much, I didn't want to stop," she says with a smile.

Mr Arvind Lalwani is head coach at Juggernaut Fight Club and head coach of the national boxing team.

Miss Shiren says: "I train three to four hours every day. It includes a run or sprints, weights, skipping, footwork."

Her intensive training has paid off - with five fights under her belt, three prior to joining the national team and two after, she has chalked up three wins and two losses.

"Actually, I always wanted to take up muay thai, so I went to this gym (Juggernaut Fight Club) to learn it and found that I loved boxing more," she says with a laugh.

Boxing, Miss Shiren says, is not all about punches. "It's actually like a chess game. It's very strategic. You place your fist here and you move it a bit to trick your opponent into attacking."


And her experience in psychology has helped her in fights.

She says it makes her more aware of the need to pay attention to her state of mind during training.

She adds that it keeps her more attentive to the psychological factors that can affect her progress and the outcome of her fights.

What she has taken away from boxing is the confidence.

She explains: "It makes it easier to handle challenges in daily life. If you're stressed out in school, you can go 'I have stepped into the ring and taken hits. If I can do that, I can do this.' That's the great thing about being a fighter."

She may be powerful in the ring, but Miss Shiren also believes that being tough does not make it impossible to be feminine.

"You shouldn't judge yourself as just one thing. You can bake, you can love dressing up. You can be many things at once," she says.

Indeed, sometimes it is hard for others to believe she is a fighter, as is evident from an interesting meeting with a new coach at the gym.

She recalls: "There was a new coach we just had. He thought I was the cupcake girl because I brought cupcakes and brought them to training that day."

But she notes that reactions to her being a fighter are not always as light-hearted.

"There is nothing wrong with being feminine and being strong. Those are not mutually exclusive things. You don't have to choose one or the other," she clarifies.

Those sentiments are echoed by her teammate, Miss Tiffany Teo, 25, who says:"I think when people think of fight sports in general, they link it to violence."

She bakes as well, and has had people tell her how incongruent boxing and baking is. "People tend to think you are either one or another, like it's mutually exclusive. You can be both," she says.

On top of that, she confesses to having a fascination with flowers. Which explains her fight name, Wildflower.

"It's very common for people to think a boxer is tough, rough, not feminine, fierce. It's true, I'm fierce, but I can also be the flip side of that," says Miss Teo.

She adds that most of the female boxers she knows are very feminine, and seeing them inside and outside the ring is akin to meeting two different people.

"I like it when I surprise people. When I'm not what they expected."

This article was first published on Mar 8, 2015.
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