Penang boxers ready for Sukma challenge

THE 19th Sukma boxing competition to be held in Bagan Datoh in Perak from Sept 15 to 21 will be keenly contested with medals expected to be shared among several states.

This is the prediction of Penang’s Indonesian coach Jhonny Kasiram, 52, who has been with the state boxing team for the last 14 years.

“All the states seem to be well prepared this time. For example, Sabah had sent their boxers for training in the Philippines, Sarawak had sent theirs to Pontianak (Indonesia), and Johor and Terengganu to Batam (Indonesia),” said Jhonny at the team’s training centre in Batu Uban.

“I would say the standard of the boxers is more or less the same. Some teams are favoured to win in some categories and other teams in other categories.”

Mohamad Asuad working out on the punching bag in the Batu Uban training centre.

Penang, which won one silver medal and one bronze medal in the last Sukma in Sarawak two years ago, will be sending five male boxers. There is no competition for female boxers in Sukma as yet.

The Penang boxers are Muhamad Nurhakim Abdul Aziz (flyweight), Surendran Kumaran (lightweight), Mohd Asuad Mohd Halim (69kg), S. Ganeswar (middleweight) and Mohd Aswan Che Azmi (light heavy).

Jhonny, who hails from Medan, rues the fact that two of his brightest prospects, Sheikh Rahmattullah (49kg) and Mohd Rasdenal Haikal (52kg), are underage for the Sukma tournament. They are both 17 years old, missing out on the Sukma competition that is meant for boxers between the ages of 18 and 21 this time.

The rules have been changing in the last few years as the minimum qualifying age set by the National Sports Council (NSC) was 17 for the 2010 Sukma and 19 for the 2016 Sukma.

Johnny said NSC made the changes based on decisions taken by AIBA (International Boxing Association, originally known as the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur) to distinguish the juniors and the elite boxers.

Muhamad Nurhakim throwing punches at Jhonny in a training session.

“Both Sheikh Rahmattullah and Mohd Rasdenal entered the finals of their respective events in the Taipei City Cup last week. Boxers from Japan, South Korea, Mongolia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka took part. So, I would confidently say if the duo are eligible for 2018 Sukma, they will get a podium finish,” Jhonny said.

Sheikh Rahmattullah and Mohd Rasdenal were two of three Penang boxers chosen to represent the national team in the Taipei championship.

The third boxer, Mohamad Asuad, 18, managed a bronze in the Taipei City Cup. He is expected to deliver a gold in Sukma in the 69kg category.

“I’ll fight for gold. Even a nose injury sustained in Taipei is not going to stop me. It’s normal to get this sort of injury in boxing,” said Mohamad Asuad, who had represented SMK Abdullah Munshi in the Penang schools football championship (MSSPP) as a leftback last year.

“It was my father who encouraged me to take up boxing seriously. He wanted me to do something other than football.

“I finished my Form Five studies last year and I now want to make boxing my career. I watch a lot of boxers in action from videos and I pick the best from each boxer to improve myself. In particular, I admire the skills and courage of Eswaran (Penang professional boxer) and Manny Pacquiao (the Philippines).”

Mohamad Asuad has tasted success before, winning in the 2017 Penang International Pesta and the 2018 National Youth (17-18 years) in Lawin, Perak this year.

So, when he steps into the ring in Bagan Datoh, many eyes will definitely be on him.

The Penang Sukma boxing squad: Boxers: Flyweight (52kg) – Muhamad Nurhakim Abdul Aziz, Lightweight (60kg) – Surendran Kumaran, Welterweight (69kg) – Mohd Asuad Mohd Halim, Middleweight (75kg) – S. Ganeswar, Light heavyweight (81kg) – Mohd Aswan Che Azmi.
Officials: Team manager – M. Tamilselvam, Chief coach – Jhonny Kasiram; Assistant coaches – Pakinathan Sabastin and T. Arumugam.

Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Ahmad Adil Muhamad