He may be adept at whipping up fancy dishes in school but in the boxing ring, Singaporean amateur Jason Chua is all about dishing out punches.
A student in OSAC International College’s culinary arts programme, Chua has set his sights on representing the Republic at the Aug 19-30 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
But he must first beat fellow amateur Daniel Jalili in the 56kg eliminator match at the Roar of Singapore II on May 27.
The organisers Ringstar Management announced last Friday that a “box-off” between the pair will take place as part of the line-up of events at Resorts World Sentosa. The winner will secure the ticket to Malaysia.
Chua, 25, first developed an appetite for boxing eight years ago, after watching the Japanese anime boxing series Hajime no Ippo. Indeed, at the press conference held on Sunday at Decathlon, nothing about him screamed fighter.
Instead, dressed in a denim jacket and jeans and wearing a pair of thick glasses, he would be difficult to distinguish from the man in the street.
With a touch of defiance, he told The Straits Times: “Unlike most people, (I took up boxing) not because I watched Muhammad Ali or wanted to emulate him. I started by watching Hajime no Ippo and knew that I wanted to fight.”
There is nothing frivolous about his drive to succeed in the ring. Chua, who was in the reserve squad for the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, revealed his motivation for the May 27 event: “I need to win this to go on to bigger things, like the Commonwealth Games.”
However food, not boxing, remains his long-term focus, hence his choice of career.
We are having this elimination fight (at the Roar of Singapore II) because there are two athletes in the category and since only one can go to the SEA Games, we must be fair.
Syed Abdul Kafir, president of the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association, added that the chance to fight in front of a crowd will inspire both fighters.
He said: “I have this desire that even the poor should have tasty food. I want to make that happen some day. I wasn’t inspired by anyone, I just want to do good and be good at what I like.”
In contrast to Chua, Daniel’s initial interest in boxing stemmed not from a cartoon but from real life.
Clad in T-shirt and sweatpants and sporting a low-rise mohawk, he confessed that he grew up a “troublemaker”, picking fights due to misunderstandings.
But one day, the 25-year-old psychology student at Aventis School of Management realised that he enjoyed boxing and thought: “How can I fight legally?”
He joined Fightworks Asia, before moving to Kadir Boxing School, run by former national boxer Syed Abdul Kadir, who is also the president of the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association (Saba).
When asked about the fight, both boxers insisted that they were in a good position to succeed.
Daniel, who has dropped a weight class (he used to be a lightweight) for this event, said: “My style involves close combat. I will prove this to the judges by dominating the match every round.”
Chua, however, insisted that he had the upper hand, noting: “I’m very comfortable in my weight class. I’ve fought many times in this category before and I know exactly how it works.
“I think the weight class is definitely an advantage because of my experience. Not only that, I really think that I am the smarter fighter.
“Daniel can only fight, but I have the ring IQ which he doesn’t. Daniel can only move forward whereas I can move side-to-side. He can’t do that.”
Kadir explained that the box-off was included in the Roar of Singapore II’s line-up to ensure impartial Games selection: “We are having this elimination fight because there are two athletes in the category and since only one can go to the SEA Games, we must be fair.”
He noted that it was also an advantage to have the fight in front of a crowd “because they will give their all in front of many people and we want only the best”.
— John Pravin Kanesan, Straits Times