Syamsul Anwar

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1976 Montreal Olympic: Men's Boxing

Birth name: Syamsul Anwar Harahap


Former boxer champ Syamsul now lord of his own ring Sports News - February 24, 2005

Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

There is a satisfied look on the face of Syamsul Anwar Harahap as he surveys workers completing the construction of a boxing gym at his home in Cibubur, East Jakarta.

"Building a boxing gym has been my vow for a long time," the former Asian light welterweight champion told The Jakarta Post.

Situated on 400 square meters in his leafy compound, the gym will provide training for youngsters from nearby areas to become boxers -- for free.

Its realization shows his love for his sport, an effort to share with others the opportunities and rewards provided to him. It will be a place for youth -- so often caught up in brawls or other forms of delinquency -- to vent their adolescent angst.

"This boxing gym is the manifestation of my dedication to boxing, where I changed my destiny from a disabled child into a champion," the 52-year-old TV commentator said.

Born in the plantation town of Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra, Syamsul contracted polio as an infant, leading to paralysis in his right arm.

He was the object of cruel taunts.

"That was a hard period for me as people always mocked me as a 'cripple'," he recollected.

But his parents encouraged him to develop the strength in his right arm through physical training; he has said in the past that his mother would spur him on by telling him about the American sprinter Wilma Rudolph, who overcame polio to become an Olympic champion.

After years of building up the strength in his right arm, Syamsul started boxing training with his uncle, who helped him win his first title.

Syamsul, aged only 18, then took part in the North Sumatra Boxing Championship, overcoming all opposition to win.

His victory caused a division in his family.

His father did not want him to continue fighting, but his mother told him: "If that's your choice, do it seriously with all your heart."

He took her advice, eventually becoming one of the country's greatest boxers and earning the nickname of "bulldozer".

Standing 1.71 meters, he lost only 16 of his 139 bouts from 1969-1983 in the division (with a maximum weight of 63.5 kg), and never suffered a KO.

From 1972-1982 he was unbeatable at the national level, leading the Indonesian Boxing Association (Pertina) to ban him from competing at the National Games.

As with overcoming his childhood disability, his success in the ring was built on hard work. Come rain or shine, he trained every day of the week, always prepared for what lay ahead.

"I really enjoyed the 10-year unbeaten period. I practiced in the morning, went to work, practiced again in the afternoon and studied at the Indonesian Academy of Secretarial and Management Studies (ASMI) at night."

His two greatest triumphs occurred on home soil. In 1976, he defeated Thomas Hearns, one of the leading American boxers of the period, in the President's Cup.

A year later, he won the Asian title in Jakarta.

He takes pride in all he has achieved and the problems he has overcome, living by the motto "fortune favors the bold".

"It was the greatest moment for me when I realized that here I was, someone who was once disabled and often mocked by people because of that, but could finally win most of my boxing bouts by beating normal people."

After retiring from the sport in 1983, Syamsul worked as a marketing manager for a leading shoe company. He also became a trainer in a boxing camp but quit because, he said, he did not like being a "subordinate".

Today, working as a TV commentator, newspaper columnist and with a mango plantation back in his native North Sumatra, Syamsul seems content in his independence.

Three of his four children have gone on to study at university, while the youngest is in elementary school.

"I prefer to work as a boxing commentator because I am able to freely criticize the Indonesian trainers, clubs and organizations," Syamsul said.

None of his children has taken up a sports career, something he is ambivalent about.

"I let my children take part in sports since they were young, but not specifically in boxing," he said.

"I'm worried that my children would be burdened to have achievements as high as mine if I did force them to box."

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