SINGAPORE – It is still six weeks before they meet in the ring, but the verbal jabs flew thick and fast when Muhamad Ridhwan and Namibian former world champion Paulus Ambunda faced the press on Wednesday morning.
They will square off for the International Boxing Organisation (IBO) super bantamweight (up to 55kg) world title at the Roar of Singapore: The Kings of Lion City event at Marina Bay Sands on Sept 29.
Ambunda, who won the IBO super bantamweight world title in August 2015 but lost it 10 months later in his second title defence, struck a nerve when he described Ridhwan as a “stepping stone” for him to return to the top.
Ridhwan fired back by taking aim at Ambunda’s age.
“He’s too old, too slow,” the 30-year-old Singaporean said of his rival, who is eight years older.
“I respect him, he’s good, but not great, and his best days are over.
“He’s the one who is the stepping stone for me, not the other way round.”
Ambunda replied: “Ridhwan is a great boxer, young, up-and-coming, and hungry for success.
“But he has a lot of mistakes in him. He is just a boy and I am his father, and on Sept 29, I will teach him to respect his elders.”
At this point, Ridhwan, wearing a smirk, turned to his manager Scott O’ Farrell and joked: “He said it himself, he’s an elderly person.
“Scott, why are you making me punch an old man? Why are you making me the bad guy?”
The IBO is considered the biggest organisation in boxing outside the traditional big four of the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organisation.
Ridhwan earned his shot after beating Filipino Jeson Umbal for the IBO intercontinental featherweight title at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in April.
This assures him of a shot at the organisation’s world title in the featherweight (up to 57kg), super bantamweight (one weight class below) or super featherweight (up to 59kg) classes.
Winning the world title would put Ridhwan’s name alongside other well-known IBO world champions like Briton Anthony Joshua (heavyweight) and Gennady Golovkin (middleweight).
Ridhwan was originally supposed to face Pipat Chaiporn on Sept 29, but the Thai lost to Japanese fighter Ryohei Takahashi in June and dropped out of contention for the IBO world title, so Ambunda was roped in as his replacement.