I’ve known Ridhwan for just over two years. Seeing him in action during sparring sessions is a treat and any amateur boxer worth his salt will learn a lot from his footwork, defence and precision, honed in a decade of boxing.
Outside of the ring, I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing him grow not just as a sportsman but as a human being. His talent was never in doubt and if you have a chance to watch him in action at The Roar of Singapore II, happening on 27 May at Resorts World Sentosa, please do. He’s finally fighting for a world title and not soon before long, ticket prices to watch Ridhwan will increase exponentially due to his crowd-pleasing style and quick hands.
Away from the glare of the media lights, I caught up with Ridhwan in the middle of his training camp at Legends Fight Sport. He’s been asked numerous times about the brute physicality of the sport and the arduous training sessions so I decided to ask him about his mental preparations instead.
Eddie Alvarez said after his first knockout. “I think there’s a freedom in having your worst nightmare come true. As a fighter, your worst nightmare is to get knocked out in front of millions of people. I realise after it happened, nothing changed. Nothing changed. My family’s still here, my friends are still here. I’m still the same person. Everybody just wants me to fight again and do well again. Nothing really changed. So there’s a freedom in it and if you haven’t experienced it then you won’t be able to feel the freedom that I have right now.” What’s your greatest freedom?
I’ve never been knocked out so I don’t know. But people always say to be positive before a fight. Always think about winning and having your hands raised. I think differently. I realise getting knocked out or losing is a possibility. I imagine myself being in tough situations. Of course it’s scary to know that you can get knocked out but at the end of the day, nothing changes. I always think, “So what? We’re all going to die one day.” By thinking like that, it’s already very liberating. It gives me the freedom.
The thought that nothing is forever is my greatest freedom. Whether I win or lose, all of these will pass anyway.
Was that what you were thinking in the previous fight when you got knocked down before going on to win?
Actually I felt calm. I felt the strongest punch from him already so it’s not going to get worse from then on. And I knew it was a matter of time before I caught him with my own shot. It wasn’t embarrassing.
Two years ago, you told me that you never liked the media. How have you changed?
I’m still myself. I just try my best to enjoy the process. Media is part of the job as a professional athlete so I just need to embrace it.
I feel like you’re two different personas when you’re in front of the media and behind the media.
I actually don’t talk a lot. People are surprised I talk so much in front of the media. I guess it just depends on my mood. It’s not like I go out of the way to sell myself or to be a different person. It’s hard to keep up with a fake Ridhwan. It’s a lot of unnecessary work. The Ridhwan in front of the camera is just me with an increased volume. I broadcast more of my thoughts.
And I’ve realised you started trash talking a bit more.
I won’t say it’s trash talking. It’s more facts (laughs). I just say what I believe. I don’t over-hype. I don’t disrespect my opponent. It’s part of the fight game.
Before the fight, that few minutes of silence, what goes through your mind?
I think of all the possibilities that can happen. Winning; losing; getting knocked down; getting knocked out; getting tired; my fight plan, getting tired, etc. I don’t listen to music. The thinking starts after weigh-in and after I have that meal because before that, I’m just thinking about my food (laughs). However, a few weeks before the fight, I will naturally become a bit more quiet, intense and focused. I will get nervous and feel fear. Any fighter who says that he is not nervous or scared is lying
What are some mental exercises you do?
I practise visualisation, like putting myself in tough moments and how I’ll get out of it. And I talk to my coach a lot.
What is your greatest fear going into this fight?
It’s boxing. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how hard he’s going to hit and I don’t know how I’ll react when I get hit. It’s scary to think of what is uncertain. That’s the fear.
What is your prediction for the fight?
I predict it won’t go 12 rounds. One of us will get knocked out. I’ve seen my opponent fight. I think he’s skillful. He’s good in his movement and defence, and is quite tricky and slick. It’s going to take more than power to knock him out.