Boxing is slowly making a comeback, with more fitness gyms offering training for combat sports in the country. The rise in popularity has made it possible for Bruneians to compete in the sport, whether it be regionally or at an international stage.

We recently caught up with Rudy Hairywan bin Yussof, who is a boxer and has represented Brunei Darussalam in the 2001 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), bringing home a bronze medal in the light middleweight division. He is currently a trainer for upcoming boxers in Brunei.

Photo: Sutera/Amir Hazwan

Rudy’s interest in boxing sparked after watching combat sports matches during the 1999 SEA Games, which was hosted in Brunei.

“I was fascinated with the sport after watching a few matches during the 1999 SEA Games, and it inspired me to join a boxing training programme the following year, led by coaches from Thailand at Menglait Sports Complex,” said Rudy.

Photo: Sutera/Amir Hazwan

The training that was given at Menglait Sports Complex included basic boxing techniques such as jabs, cross, one-two punch, among others. Drills were design using unconventional items such as car tyres and slabs of wood to develop the stamina and strength of the boxers at that time.

The vigorous training was the biggest challenge that Rudy encountered at that time, as he was not only tested mentally, but physically as well.

Photo: Sutera/Amir Hazwan

“I was still working at the time, and the training will continue at night after work. Balancing work and training was one of my biggest challenges. It was exhausting, and without a solid mental and physical strength capacity, one could easily give up [the training],” he exclaimed.

After all that training, Rudy was given the opportunity to deem himself a worthy opponent in the boxing matches held at the end of the month locally, and the Borneo Games in Sabah, Malaysia.

Rudy explained that he initially joined boxing for fun, with no intention of joining tournaments, but the positive outlook and support from the coaches led him to fight in matches in Brunei and Sabah. “After winning a string of matches both locally and regionally, I was asked by the coach to represent Brunei in the 2001 SEA Games,” he said.

Photo: Sutera/Amir Hazwan

He made the country proud by bringing home a bronze medal in the light-middleweight division.

“The opportunity to represent the country was a proud moment for me, and winning the bronze medal was one of the happiest moments in my life. We were greeted with a hero’s welcome at the airport upon arrival,” said Rudy.

Despite retiring from his boxing career, he continues to nurture young talents in the country by teaching boxing classes at a fitness gym in Brunei. He has implemented the same techniques that was taught to him when he first started boxing. In a way, his way of teaching boxing is considered ‘old school’ compared to what is practiced at other gyms.

Photo: Sutera/Amir Hazwan

As far as motivation goes, the good feedback from his students about the training is one of the main reasons that he kept on training boxing for the younger generation.

“For those who want to take up boxing, a piece of advice I can give is to be disciplined in training and learn from the coaches. Another important attribute is to be mentally and physically strong,” he concluded.

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