Syed Abdul Kadir
Syed Abdul Kadir (Photo courtesy of SSC)
Syed Abdul Kadir
Date of Birth: 16 February 1948
Competitive Career: 1966 - 1976
Hall of Fame:
Sportsman of the Year 1974
Syed Kadir has been fascinated with boxing since the age of 11. He often watched in awe as the boxers trained and competed at school competitions. A complimentary ticket to the Singapore versus Bruma Amateur Dual meet in 1959 altered the course of his life for good. The event sparked his ambition and paved his way to the international arena.
Kadir started competed in school boxing championships when he was at St. Andrew's Primary School. By age 18, he was training under Lee Wee Kee, a professional boxer turned coach, at a community centre. Fighting in the light flyweight division, he soon proved his mettle, winning matches over his stronger and bigger opponents.
Two years later, in 1968, he turned into a part-time professional, K. M. Abdullah, whom he admired. He won the Singapore Open title that year, and retained his title until 1976. He quickly progressed to the international stage, representing Singapore in his first SEAP Games in 1969. He continued to compete in the Games over the next ten years, winning one gold and two silver medals in all. His illustrious boxing career also took him to the 1970 and 1974 Asian Games. At the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand, he won Singapore's first-ever medal for boxing in the series. That same year, he was crowned Sportsman of the Year.
Syed Abdul Kadir on Olympians Night at SCC, July 2004 (Photo courtesy of SSC)
He joined the ranks of the Olympians when he represented Singapore at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Having won the first fight, he was looking forward to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, a cut on his right eyebrow dealt a blow to his hopes of winning a medal at the Games.
Kadir considers his greatest fight to be that in the 1971 SEAP Games, where he defeated Burma's Vanlal Dowla, then the bext boxer in Asia. His defense stood up so well that his opponent 'could not land any solid punches'. He said, 'I worked really hard and when I won the gold medal after a 12-year break, I felt on the top of the world. No one expected that I would get the gold except my coaches. When the national anthem Majulah Singapura was plated, I could not help crying.'
Kadir's family provided unstinting support throughout his sporting career, particularly his father, Syed Abu bakar. Until his death in 1980, Syed Abu attended every single match that Kadir participated in. A staunch sports advocate, he was President of the Cosmo Sports Club in Potong Pasir for almost 30 years.
Kadir found another love of his life amid his busy sporting schedule. While auditing the accounts of the then National Sports Promotion Board (NSPB) in 1971, he met his future wide, Madam Zalia Jaafar, a telephone operator. Madam Zalia is still attending to calls today, only this time at the SSC, the NSPB's successor organization. They have two children, and their son, Syed Mohd Fahmy, followed in his father's footsteps for a few years.
Kadir has been referred to as the most prolific boxer for the years 1968 to 1976. He became the national coach after retiring from competition. At 56, Kadir runs his own boxing school at the Singapore Martial Instructors' Association in Kallang, teaching anyone who is interested in boxing, whether for competition, exercise, fitness or preparation for National Service.