Meet boxer Tuan Nuhar Yahiya

Tuan Nuhar Yahiya
Tuan Nuhar Yahiya

Former St. Michael's College, Polwatte, Colpetty, Ceylon Schools, Ceylon Army, Defence Services and Ceylon boxer Tuan Nuhar Yahiya spoke to the Daily News about his boxing career at his residence at 723/82, Lake Terrace, Athurugiriya.

Q. What is your date of birth and something about your family?

A - I was born on 9 June 1942. My father is Mohamed Yahiya a Fire Superintendent at the Colombo Port and my mother is Booba Nona Jassin and she is a housewife. I am the eldest in the family and I have four brothers and one sister and we were living at Old Moor Street, Colombo.

Q. What is your first school?

A - I was admitted to St. Anthony's Roman Catholic School Colpetty and my principal was Rev. Sr. Kennis and after passing grade 2, I was admitted to Hameedia Boy School. I was there up to standard six and there I played for the under 14 football team. Later I was admitted to St. Michael’s College, Polwatte. There too I was a unanimous choice for the under 15 soccer team. My father encouraged me to play soccer and volleyball.

Q. How did you commence your boxing career?

A - At St. Michael’s there are two streams English and Sinhala and I was in the English stream. One day a senior boy from the Sinhala stream assaulted one of my class mates and immediately I intervened and had a fight with him. Then our Principal late president of the Ceylon Schools Boxing Association S. K. Gunawardene saw this incident from a two storied building and immediately called two of us and got down two pairs of boxing gloves through our college boxing captain Hector Ekanayake and asked the two of us to put on gloves and fight with each other. Both of us got hammered and he stopped the bout and asked me to report for boxing practices the following day.

Q. Did you inform your parents?

A - No. I told my mother that I am attending soccer practices. If my father came to know that I am attending boxing practices he would have never allowed me. At college my coach was Anton Jones and he was called Brown Bomber of Ceylon and Ekanayake too helped me. In our school we had Inter School boxing meets and I beat Vijitha Fernando (later Air Force) and I was selected for the school team. One day when I was practicing I got a blow on my mouth and my lip was swollen. When I went home my father noticed it and I had to come out with the truth. With the injury he hammered me mercifully and I had to go under the drawing room table to escape. But my mother encouraged me without the knowledge of my father.

Q. Did you participate in the Inter School meets?

A - Yes. During our time there was an annual boxing fixture versus St. Thomas’ Gurutalawa and I was selected. I told my mother the truth and told my father that I was going for a soccer match. In my first boxing meet which was in 1960 I lost to Jaleel Khan.

Q. Then what happened?

A - I was selected for the Inter Schools Junior ABA meet Under 80 lbs and I had to face about 12 bouts. I became the champion. In the Stubbs Shield meet under 85lbs I was also the champion. In the Up Country Low Country Meet I lost to Michael Bulner of St. Sylvester’s. Again at the Stubbs Shield meet I beat Nihal Gunaratne of S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, Premachandra, Rahaman of Royal College and Watson of St. Sylvester’s. When I beat Nihal Gunaratne a photograph appeared in the Daily News and my father had seen it and showed it to my mother.

After that he did not oppose me for participating in boxing. Whilst at school I joined St. Michael’s Boxing Club and my other boxing mates were P. G. Neil (captain), Winston Vanculenberg, M. Jaroof, Jeffrey Vanculenberg, and M. Y. Johoran and S. P. Jayasooriya who joined us later from Prince of Wales' College.

Q. Did you box in the Nationals?

A - Yes. I beat Zakaria, Rafaideen of Army and W. R. M. Vincent and in the finals Derrick Gunasinghe in the under 112lbs. I participated in the Novices, Intermediate, Clifford Cup and Layton Cup meets in the Light Fly 108 lbs. In 1963 I was selected along with ten other members to the Ceylon Schools boxing team and toured India for the M. D. Gunasena Trophy. I lost to Tharaj Mithra of Calcutta but we won the trophy. In Madras I beat Nandan Lal in the under 105 lbs, in Kanpur I beat Ababul Majumlal and lost to Lakan Kunda at Calcutta. In the Amateur Boxing meet under 100lbs I lost to Tharaj Mithra of Indian Railways. In the Stubbs Shield meet organized by Sri Lanka Schools at New Town Hall I became the Welter weight under 100 lbs champion.

Q. What was your employment?

A - I joined the then Ceylon Army and was attached to the Gemunu Watch. When I was in the Army I was selected for the Asian Games along with H. K. Karunaratne, Winston Vanculenberg, Marzook and Jaroof. But I could not take part due to unavoidable circumstances. Whilst I was in the Army I was unbeaten commencing from Inter Unit, Inter Services and Combined Services and I was awarded and re-awarded Army and Combined Services boxing colours.

Q. Did you coach the Army boxers?

A - Yes. I was a player cum coach and Brigadier Hugh Rupasinghe assigned me to coach them. I have produced several boxers of fame for the Army some of them are Y. L. R. Joseph, Nuwagamuwa, W. Silva and M. Osman.

The Amateur Boxing Association selected me for a boxing coaching stint in Korea and Brigadier Rupasinghe supported me but the Army turned down the request. Lalin Fernando and former commander Jerry Silva helped me in many ways in my boxing.

Q. Did you continue to box and coaching in the Army?

A - Yes. But unfortunately in 1971 the JVP insurrection broke out throughout the Island and all the sports in the Army was stopped and all of us were deployed in various parts of the country.

Q. When did you retire from the Army?

A - In 1986 I retired from the Army and joined Seylan Bank as an Executive Officer and I played rugby for them and I left them in 2002.

Q. Any of your children took up to sports?

A - No. I have two sons and two daughters and my wife is a housewife. During my Army career my family was at Diyatalawa and there were not much of possibilities to play and take part in games. Due to this they were not interested.

Q. Who was the most Scientific Boxer you came across during your boxing career?

A - No doubt it was Michael Bulner of St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy. There were two other boxers whom I was highly impressed with - Jaroof of St. Michael’s College and later Army and Gordon Pereira of Carey College and later Air Force. They are scientific and very hardy boxers and they go flat out.

Q. Are you involved in coaching or any other activity now?

A - I am attached to the Media Unit of Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen Association, Bristol Street, Colombo 1 as an English correspondent and our media team carries out news weekly in the Daily News and Dinamina of Ex-Servicemen.

Q. Finally what is the advice you can give to the present day boxers?

A - Unlike our time the students are not much of interested in boxing today. Most of them are for cricket and the parents too encourage them. If you are participating in boxing you must be always very calm and never lose your temper in and out of the ring. Boxing is a scientific sport. If you play it to the rules and regulations it's a much disciplined game too. Boxing is for your self defence but never involve it in street fighting if so your opponent can get injured.

Note: T. N. Yahiya can be contacted on 0777746530 


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