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HomesportAsian Games profile: Danisha Mathialagan the ox in the box

Asian Games profile: Danisha Mathialagan the ox in the box

An ancient Chinese tale tells of a race among animals, with the sequence they finished determining the 12-year zodiac cycle’s order. First came the rat, then ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. At the Sept 23-Oct 8 Asian Games in Hangzhou, Singapore’s 431-strong contingent will also be racing for honours.

The Straits Times features 12 athletes, each corresponding to one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. In the second profile of the series, Kimberly Kwek interviews boxer Danisha Mathialagan.

How did you get into boxing and what was your first day in the sport like?

I was a netballer but I wasn’t in the main team, so I decided to find something out of the sport.

I googled boxing gyms and the first thing that popped up was Legends Fight Sport and I signed up for three months.

My first boxing session was at 6.30am in North Canal Road – a very dingy place with a very dark staircase and they didn’t turn on the lights that day, so I was quite afraid to go up.

It was so tiring, I was like ‘Am I even made for this?’

At the end of the session, we always do core work like crunches, and I couldn’t even do the first proper set.

Is it true that you had to hide the first few medals you won from your mum?

When I first started boxing, I told my mum it was just going to be training and that I wouldn’t get hit.

Along the way, I thought that it was quite fun, so I started competing but I knew my mum wouldn’t let me.

I hid it (the medal I won from my first fight) in my cupboard. I did that because I didn’t want them to worry too much.

Till now, none of my family members has watched me fight in real life because my mum just doesn’t want to see her kid get hit.

But, apart from that, she’s very supportive in other aspects, like helping me prepare meals.

What does it mean to be the first Singaporean boxer to qualify for the Asian Games since 1976?

It’s insane. I do feel a lot of pressure and weight on my shoulders but I will embrace this. 

They say pressure is a privilege.

I’m just looking forward to showing my skills on the stage and seeing where I stand.

What goes on in your mind when you’re in the ring?

When I step into the ring, the first thing I see is how tall is the person, how far of a distance I have to stay so I don’t get hit and what distance I have to go in to hit.

A lot of people think boxing is a battle of strength, a battle of the upper body, who can punch harder. Actually, it’s very technical.

Other than that, the thing is the battle of the jabs – this is a very important punch because the first person who lands it will be more confident.

I completely shut off everything around me but I can hear my coach perfectly, no matter how loud it is.

You once said boxing can be a lonely sport. Could you elaborate on that?

In Singapore’s context, boxing is a lonely sport because not many people share the same path, and our talent pool isn’t as big as in other countries.

I do have a lot of people supporting me, like (my coaches) Leona Hui and Muhamad Ridhwan, and I can talk to them about anything but it sometimes can get a bit lonely.

Ultimately, you are the one who is fighting, so you feel it the most.

Tell us about your day job as an embalmer and how you got into it.

I’m still a full-time student but, on the side, I do freelance embalming. 

After polytechnic, I worked in the mortuary with the Health Sciences Authority.

But I left to do my current degree and I felt something was missing, I felt like I really loved working with the dead and felt that there was where my passion was, so I found a mentor to teach me.

How have your experiences in your job shaped your perspective on life?

I’ve witnessed a lot of tragic deaths, like people committing suicide and workplace accidents.

So I see life as something that’s very short and I would like to maximise how I live.

As cliche as it sounds, I don’t want to live with any regrets.

In that way, I’m just jumping into any opportunities I get in life, like me not quitting boxing and creating opportunities like going for the Asian Games and maybe, hopefully, the Olympics.

In what way do you feel you are similar to your Chinese zodiac animal – the ox?

I feel like I’m very hard-headed. If you put any obstacle in front of me, I am very determined to cross it.


Name: Danisha MathialaganAge: 26Asian Games event: Women’s 50kgAchievements:
– WA State Titles International Challenge 2022 (1st)
– Legacy Women’s Boxing Championship 2022/23 (1st)

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Boxing: Singapore’s Danisha makes U-turn on retirement plan after having to miss 2nd SEA Games

Team Singapore flag off Chinese zodiac race at the Asian Games

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