A punch above the rest: The rise and rise of Hanurdeen

26 Aug 2020

By Prabhu Silvam

National boxer Mohamed Hanurdeen Bin Hamid is building on past defeats to fuel his rise to the top of Singapore’s boxing scene.

Hanurdeen – a three-time recipient of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship – receiving his award from Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports.

By the time Mohamed Hanurdeen Bin Hamid reached the second round of the flyweight boxing final at the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, he was already blind in one eye.

A horrific headbutt just two days before in the semi-final had left him with a swollen left eye. Despite advice from his doctors to stop the fight if the injury worsened, he decided to push on. His Filipino opponent in the final jumped at the opportunity to inflict pain, jabbing and raining down punches ruthlessly to the left side of his face.

The floodlights at Singapore Expo Hall 1 were blinding but it didn’t matter — the Singaporean could not see. The bout was harrowing and nervy. All the same, you could not look away. Hanurdeen’s tenacity was gaining momentum with each punch. He would not back down.

After all, he had come a long way since the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) where he got knocked out in the semi-final. Five years on, he was now in the boxing finals of SEA Games.

His grit paid off. Despite his limited vision, he continued to fight and lasted the three rounds.

He lost 1-2, but bagged a silver medal, Singapore’s best result in the sport since 1993.

Such blows, literally, have shaped the 27-year-old national boxer, instilling a perseverance and strengthening his adversity quotient as he embarked on a journey to become one of Singapore’s most talented fighters.

Add to that the support he has received, including a scholarship from the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Foundation, and this shy and soft-spoken athlete has built up an impressive reservoir of grit and fighting spirit.

“(Each time I get into the ring) I’m not really worried about getting hurt. What concerns me more is my performance. The result makes little difference, how I perform matters more.”

 

Fighting to the top

Boxing was always more than just a sport. Growing up, it was a means for him to curb his mischievous ways and channel his energy constructively. In 2006, at 13, he decided to follow his elder brother and take up boxing. It worked. Within two years, he was in his first international competition in Malaysia.

Yet, the lack of strong local opponents in the same age and weight category meant that he could not beef up his fighting experience. “Compared to my boxing counterparts in other countries then, I had limited experience,” he said. “Not having sufficient competitions was pressure for me.”

This lack of fights would weigh down on him mentally during the 2010 YOG. Competing in his first major games on home soil was too much to handle for the then 17-year-old. He would go on to lose 1-9 in the semi-final.

But the defeat taught him two key lessons. First, it made him think about what he truly wanted out of boxing. “Even before the YOG, I always wanted to be an Olympian. But only the best of the best can participate. During YOG, the level of competition made me realise how much I wanted to sacrifice and put in the work.”

Next, it gave him a much-needed confidence booster that would help him in future fights.

“It aided me in my other major competitions as well especially when I took part in the SEA Games in Singapore — it was a confidence and morale booster. The YOG showed me what I could do so I felt more confident when I participated in the Singapore SEA Games.”

 

The fire within

Hanurdeen eases into the flyweight (52kg) final after overcoming his Myanmar opponent 3-0 at the 2015 SEA Games.

It was this confidence that saw him bag the silver medal in 2015 SEA Games. “I went to five SEA Games. In my first two, I lost in the first round. From that to a silver – it was truly a proud moment,” he said.

He would go on win a bronze medal each in the 2017 and 2019 SEA Games. Now, he wants a gold in 2021. “I feel that is the realistic goal from my past performance and my current training. Still, a lot of training and hard work are required for me to reach my goal,” he said. “Right now, I have the next SEA Games in sight.”