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Mon, Aug 31, 2009
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Michelle’s a knockout
by Anne Gerke

MANY people start exercising to lose weight, either by hitting the gym or taking up a sport. But after the extra kilos have been burnt off, how many people take up their sport competitively?

Michelle Thavasi took up boxing in 2006 to get fit. “I had hit that low point,” she says. “There was nothing left to lose but the weight.”

It is difficult to believe that the 1.65m tall, athletic 24-year-old once weighed over 80kg. Now a trim and taut 57kg, she has fallen in love with boxing so much that she is now Singapore’s only competitive female boxer who takes part in international competitions. A check with the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association showed there are other female boxers here, but they tend to stick to club and national competitions.

But why did Michelle pick boxing and not a more demure sport like, say, tennis?

Showing a sense of humour, she “blames” it on her bobo doll – the frustrating inflatable clown that swings back up at you, grinning, every time you punch him. On a more serious note, she says she used to watch boxing on TV and chose it over tennis, even though she played the racket sport quite regularly.

“I found that I enjoyed boxing even more than tennis. But I never ever thought I would ever get good enough to fight competitively,” confesses Michelle, who studied at MacPherson Secondary School, and certainly does not look tomboyish when she gets into her party wear.

Shrugging off the stereotypes associated with boxing – too rough, dangerous, not ladylike – she got into the sport with a ferocity that has opponents reeling on the ropes.
Her first competitive bout was in Bali in April last year while her most recent fight was at the Arafura Games in Darwin in May this year.

It hasn’t been easy. She has won just two of her five competitive bouts so far but Michelle isn’t losing heart. “Losing is painful, but I learn from each fight,” she says.

Having picked up the basics of boxing from Alexis David, Michelle is now trained by Ian Mullane – he is also her boss at Vanda Boxing Club, Vanda Promotions and Fidgets in Turf City, all owned by him – and trains six days a week with morning runs and evening boxing sessions.

“Training is the most challenging aspect of boxing. I train to the point of destruction,” she says, adding that her boxing career is “still a work in progress”.

She also teaches the women’s boxing classes at the Vanda Boxing Club, and says response is so good that the class had to be split in two, with around 25 regulars in each session.

So, does this mean that people tiptoe around the hard-punching Michelle these days?

She laughs, and says she is blessed with a very supportive family and friends. And even though some of them tease her with remarks like “I better not upset you”, they travel long distances to watch her in action in the ring.

“There is a separation between who I am in the ring and who I am out of it. Just because it is an aggressive sport does not mean I’m an aggressive person,” she adds.

That said, she flashes her trademark smile. Yet, somehow, despite that smile, she doesn’t come across as a lady to be trifled with. -tabla!

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