Learning more from my losses than my wins

Written by Muhamad Hafiz, 3 times National Champion

I started boxing back in 2010 in hope to find a new hobby while keeping fit at the  same time. While many understand that my brother is an iconic figure in the local boxing scene, I was never pressured into taking up the sport. The first club I went to was Kadir’s Boxing School where they had nurtured a couple of national boxers back then. 

I would describe my first class as a little dull and boring due to Coach Kadir’s old school technique of teaching. It was only today I understand why he did it back then. We would run around the perimeter which was approximately 3km which was not bad at all compared to skipping. I find myself really stiff, lacking range of motion on the jump-rope due to my tenseness of lifting weights.

Aside from skipping, I was being made to practice my footwork a lot, mainly forward, backward, left and right. It was nowhere near to seeing Muhammad Ali dancing around in the ring as I had imagined. Eventually, I learn how to throw the basic jab and straight punches, but there was no defensive movement that I picked up or not to mention the hooks and uppercuts. It was purely basic fundamental stuff that I kept repeating and after two months, Coach Kadir came up and asked if I was interested in participating in the Nationals Boxing Championship but at a novice level. Take note at this point of time I had not had my first sparring session, but the gutsy 19 year old me blindly said yes.

Barely my third month into training, I had my first taste of stepping into the ring which also happened to be my first defeat. I took it well understanding that I had plenty to learn with the minimal preparation that I have. Fast forward to many months later, I had a second shot in hope of having my hands raised. Unfortunately, the referee had stopped the contest in the third round due to safety reasons and another loss was in my book. No doubt I was very disappointed but I was also hungry and determined to get my first win.

I had to wait for almost a year to finally being able to redeem myself as I had just started serving in the army. The preparations were a lot more thorough- there was a lot of technique work, sparring and conditioning. I did had my first win. At this point of time, I felt I was really hooked into boxing especially when you are being surrounded by a group of people who had hopes and dreams of representing Singapore on the international stage one day. The Nationals Boxing Championship was only one or two months away and I swept two wins in two consecutive days, wining the U-56kg Novice Category.

Around late 2014, I earned my first international tournament in Jambi, Indonesia and managed to finish second on the podium. It turned out the judges weren’t in my favour as I was against their hometown boxer in the finals despite dominating the match. Many opportunities came along my way since then. I had the opportunity to travel to countries as far as Mongolia and Uzbekistan. There were times that I lost and used to take it hard on myself. As I matured more into the sport, I learned to accept failure is essential to anyone’s success. Even the best fall down sometimes. Truth to be told, I learned more from my losses than my wins.

Today, I’m just two fights shy of hitting 50 fights. It has been a long road, probably a decade by now but I’m glad to say I embraced my journey. I am truly grateful to how boxing has helped me to be the person I am today in many ways and I would like to share with you some of the benefits that I gained personally.

1) Discipline

Boxing has taught me to stay away from unnecessary late nights and forces me to shift my focus towards healthy living, especially when there are tournaments coming up. I would cut down on junky food to avoid feeling sluggish and also to be able to meet the weight class I’m competing at.

2) There’s always something new to learn

Boxing is a good reminder to not let complacency get to you especially when you are competing at the elite level. There is always room to pick up a thing or two to better yourself. You can’t stay the same and expect not to get beaten.

3) Great Tool for Losing Weight

When I started boxing a decade ago, I was close to 65kg. Today, I am able to compete at the 56kg weight category, which is almost ten kilos lighter than what I used to weigh back then. The long runs, jump ropes, heavy bags, hitting the pads and hundreds of crunches surely paid off. Not only that, I personally felt that my cardio improved overall.

4) Increased Mental Toughness

Boxing is as much mental as it is physical. Be it in a fight or during any training session, it can be exhausting towards the end but these are the moments where I am forced to find an extra gear within myself. This helps me cope with daily situations, be it work or outside that I am able to do things beyond my capabilities.

5) Patience

Bad things happen quickly. Good things tend to take a little longer. A professional boxing match is a 12 round fight and you can’t spend all of your energy into the first round hoping you could keep the same tempo for the next 11 rounds. You need to learn how to sustain the whole fight by conserving your energy accordingly and setting up your attacks instead of rushing for the knockout.

The local boxing scene has definitely grow as compared to when I first started. There are more events being held every now and then and you can even find a boxing gym in some neighbourhood. There are more women taking up boxing at the moment. It doesn’t have to be competitive, but rather another option to keep fit, stay healthy or even to just bond with a group of friends. Thank you for taking the time to read. Remember to keep your hands up and keep punching!

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