Boxer Hamzah's pain not in vain
Local pro boxer Hamzah ready to show his skills after training camp at Pacquiao's former gym
He took a pummelling from fighters way more skilled than him.
But local professional boxer Hamzah Farouk might surprise you with his description of a two-week training stint at the famed Elorde Boxing Gym in Quezon City, the Philippines.
"In one word? Blissful," he said, with a smile.
Elorde was where boxing icon Manny Pacquiao trained before some of his fights.
Hamzah, 29, had a camp there from March 6 to 21 to prepare for tonight's bout at the World Boxing Council-sanctioned Battle of Champions: Road to Glory event at the OCBC Arena.
Said Hamzah: "When I was there, I ate, slept and breathed boxing. That's all you think about.
"The only thing everyone did there was train, eat or rest.
"It really helps you clear your mind and focus on what you want."
The gym trainer was given the opportunity by his management company Cartel International Promotions.
But he had to be on the flight within 24 hours after learning about the trip, which he did after promptly making arrangements to take time off work for the opportunity of a lifetime.
"It's like I'm a footballer in the S.League and I get called up to train at a club in the English Premier League," said Hamzah.
"I have to thank Mr Vikram (Sivapragasam) and Alexander Shah from Cartel for making it happen, and also my brothers and my family for helping take care of my affairs during the trip."
At Elorde, Hamzah linked up with three other fighters under Cartel's management - Uzbek duo Qudratillo Abduqaxorov and Azizbek Abdugufarov, and Filipino Jeson Umbal - all of whom were preparing for their fights at the Road to Glory event.
Hamzah admitted he had a shocking initiation at Elorde.
"On the first day, I did circuit training and it was twice as hard as what I am used to in Singapore," he said.
"Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays were sparring days, where we had these long runs (of about 20km)... I run 10km once a week in Singapore, but this was totally different.
"And when I first sparred, I wasn't prepared for the level of skill and power those (Filipino) guys had.
"I sparred for six rounds and, to me, it was six rounds of hell.
"Especially the first time.
"It took me three or four days to get used to and adjust to the level and intensity of training."
Despite his initial struggles, Hamzah said he treasures his time in the boxing-mad Philippines.
The former national amateur boxer had hung up his gloves for five years before making a return in the professional scene only last month.
"I feel 19 again," he said.
"When I started again (earlier this year), I had doubts in my head....
"Maybe I'm too old, too sluggish.
"Maybe I bit off more than I could chew.
"But I realised it's just mental blockage.
"And I was able to unblock that in the Philippines and just plough through to another level."
He is eager to show off his newly acquired skills when he takes on Thai Tapanut Loetsingtaworn tonight and is looking forward to making history as the first local boxer to fight at the Sports Hub.
"It's an amazing feeling," he said.
"First of all, it's the OCBC Arena and secondly, it's a huge event.
"I feel very blessed and honoured to be on the card.
"I urge every Singaporean to come down, either to support me, or to be a part of history, since this is the first world-title event at the OCBC Arena.
"I was there, training with these guys and I know they're going to put on a great show.
"There'll be fireworks, and I'm sure it's going to be one heck of an event."
*Tickets for Battle of Champions: Road to Glory are priced from $40 and can be purchased at www.sportshubtix.sg