Boxing has garnered plenty of buzz in the celebrity world thanks to the likes of Adriana Lima and Gigi Hadid, who swear by it when it comes to their workout routines. But for Nurshahidah Roslie, boxing is more than just fitness. In fact, she’s turned it into her life’s work, clinching her first intercontinental title at the 2016 Universal Boxing Organisation super featherweight category after defeating Thailand’s Wondergirl Sithsaitong.
Drawn to combat sports as a child, Shahidah would look on in envy when she saw other kids practicing silat and taekwondo. “My family wasn’t very open to the idea of girls joining sports, especially martial arts,” she says.
Ironic, then, that the 29-year-old now makes a living from sports as Singapore’s first professional female boxer. Since her debut in February last year at the Singapore Fighting Championship (SFC) – where she emerged tops, she’s chalked up six professional wins at other competitions, beating out more established boxers from around the region.
Shahidah first picked up boxing as a student at the Institute of Technical Education. The discipline and technical skill the sport demanded made her fall in love with it.
As the only woman boxer in the national team and one of the few local women in the sport, going pro was never going to be easy. Having to train alongside male boxers, she admits it was tough proving she had the mettle. It also didn’t help that fights were few and far between – simply due to the lack of female competition on the scene. Shahidah recalls working hard to lose weight to make the cut for a particular weight class in a competition, only to be told on weigh-in day that there wasn’t going to be a fight for her. Without regular opponents to go up against, she couldn’t hone her skill.
She almost gave up. It would have been easier to look for a well-paying job instead, but Shahidah’s hunger to compete eventually won.
However, boxers have bad days too, and Shahidah says a devastating loss requires a strong mind to bounce back from. It was a long time before she got back on her feet after her first professional loss.
Part of the process required her to watch videos of that failed fight, and admit that a less-than-stellar diet had contributed to her loss. “Right after weigh-in, I had ice cream and cake,” she says. But she’s gained perspective. “I don’t believe that there are any failures, only learning points.”
Shahidah wants to inspire more women to pick up competitive boxing, and has started a programme for them at Juggernaut Fight Club. Her classes emphasise perfecting basic techniques. “I want to help women build their self-confidence. It’s what I want to focus on after retiring from professional boxing – it’s my way of giving back.”
Photography: Zaphs Zhang, assisted by Angela Guo
Art Director: Alice Chua
Styling: Bryan Goh
Hair: Jimmy Yap/Kenaris, using Redken
Makeup: Angel Gwee, using Dior
This is the first of a six part series about super she-roes and the magic they’re making in other people’s lives and their own. It was originally published in the August 2017 issue of Her World.