Ask any young girls and not many will tell you that they want to be a martial artist. Yet, at the age of 14, Nurshahidah Roslie already had her mind set on representing Singapore in martial arts.

Her aspirations came true in June this year when she became our country’s first female professional boxing champion at the Singapore Fighting Championships 3.

The 28-year-old beat out other contestants to clinch the Universal Boxing Organisation (UBO) Female Intercontinental super-featherweight title, but it seems her journey is only beginning. As she reveals, female boxers are still “not given the respect and recognition we deserve as we are seen as the weaker gender.” But she’s here to prove naysayers wrong.

What made you want to be a boxer?
I’ve loved sports since I was young. I discovered Martial Arts and started with TaeKwonDo at 14. I later desired to represent Singapore but I felt [my progress] was stagnant. While in ITE, as part of a coaching project, I was introduced to a kickboxing coach and picked up boxing and kickboxing. After two years of [rigorous] training, I competed in boxing and kickboxing matches. It was then I realised that I preferred boxing because of the technicality of the sport. It was a horrible uphill battle as an amateur boxer when I first started, but because of my passion, I persisted. It was only when Arvind groomed me as a professional boxer since early this year that I slowly unleashed my true potential in boxing.

How did the people around you react when you told them about your decision?
My parents were aware of my passion. There were many instances that forced me to hang my gloves, but I never truly let it go. My family saw that struggle and I guess they didn’t really know how else to react but to give me their blessings so I would be safe in the ring. My sister and a few of my cousins were very supportive and never failed to turn up for my matches. I am also fortunate to have some friends who are always dying to go for my next match.

How do new acquaintances usually react when you tell them about what you do?
There [is a mix of] good and not-so-desirable reactions, but generally, they find it cool and are happy for me due to the fact I have the opportunity to build a career around my passion.

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What’s the biggest misconception people have about female boxers?
That we are violent, not lady-like and for some reason, they (mostly men) feel intimidated and comment that we were going to beat them up.

How do you usually react to such misconceptions?
I don’t even know how to react so I usually shake it off. I have femininity written [all over me] so I leave it to them to reflect.

Do you think female boxers have it harder than male boxers?
Yes. Boxing is a male-dominated sport, even till this day. As female boxers, for now, we are not given the respect and recognition we deserve as we are seen as the weaker gender. I am here to prove them wrong and that as female boxers, we have our own strengths we can bring into the ring and put on an equally exciting bout.

Has there been a time when you wanted to quit boxing?
As an amateur, there were a couple of instances. Firstly, there is a limited number of females in the sport, especially in Singapore. I was training hard on top of my work schedule, only to find I didn’t have an opponent. Secondly, I was even told to choose between building a career or to compete. With my mother’s blessings, I had then chose to build a career and stopped boxing for a while, but my passion [persisted] and I never truly gave it up in the end.

If you had a daughter, would you allow her to follow in your footsteps to be a boxer?
Yes. And I would not just limit her to boxing. She can do whatever she wants, and I will encourage her to follow her passion and put her heart into it just as I have done with boxing.

What do you like and hate most about your job?
I like and I hate the training. It’s a complicated relationship we have going in the gym every day. I hate every second of training, but I love training when the feeling after is satisfying, especially when you realise your training is paying off and you are getting better, despite all the soreness. It makes you feel like a warrior! But what I really hate most is the weight cut prior to matches, especially the dieting since I live for food too other than boxing.

Want to know more about boxing? Why not find out more through anime One Punch Man? It airs every Monday and Tuesday, 10pm on Animax (StarHub TV Ch 532, Singtel TV Ch 342).

Images: Phyllicia Wang / The New Paper, Chew Seng Kim / ST Photo