Kickboxer Ruqsana Begum thinks world title win can be a game-changer
By Dev Trehan
Last Updated: 21/04/16 5:01pm
Kickboxer Ruqsana Begum thinks coming through the "ultimate" test of her career and landing a world title can be a game-changer for aspiring sportswomen in this country.
The British and European atomweight champion challenges Sweden's Susanna Salmijarvi in London this weekend, bidding to make history by becoming Britain's first South Asian female kickboxing world champion.
Begum has overcome the odds to get to this stage in her career, winning two World Championship medals despite battling a rare form of chronic fatigue syndrome known as ME.
But the British-Bangladeshi fighter and Sporting Equals ambassador hopes she can inspire women and girls across the country by becoming the 48kg world champion on Saturday night.
"This fight is the ultimate one now because the other big ones I have been involved in have all been leading up to this," the 32-year-old told Sky Sports.
"With all of those fights I felt I had nothing to lose but I feel like this is all about me now because I know I have the ability, the strength, the technique and the strategy.
"It's now about delivering and just being at the top of my game on Saturday, but because I've been there and done it before I feel like my opponent has got more to worry about than I do.
I'm experienced now, I've fought for titles, I know what it takes and I am ready for this.
"I'm experienced now, I've fought for titles, I know what it takes and I am ready for this.
"I think winning on Saturday night could have a huge impact," Begum added.
"It could change the face of the game because a lot of people look at me and see a petite tiny female, who is a British-Bangladeshi Muslim. My coach calls me the minority of the minority of minorities!
"The fact that I've overcome so many obstacles to get in the ring and now I have the chance to win a world title will give a lot of people faith and hope that sport is for everyone.
"It's not just for people who are wealthy or who have an active lifestyle, sport is for everyone and I am living proof of that. Anything is possible when you put your heart and soul into it."
Sport is for everyone and I am living proof of that. Anything is possible when you put your heart and soul into it.
Begum, who has just released her own line of sports hijabs, hopes fighting in front of a home crowd will prove to be a telling factor as she tries to fulfil her dream of becoming a world champion.
"It's going to be really nice to have the crowd behind me because most of my big fights have been abroad," she said.
"On one hand that has meant there has been no pressure on me and there will be a little bit of pressure fighting at home, in terms of expectations and friends and family who are coming to watch me.
"At the same time I think it will motivate me and spur me on.
"But winning this title will mean more to me than I can imagine. I have already come further than I ever dreamt I would by becoming a British and European champion.
"I remember when I started I was just so happy to be doing something that I was passionate about but now fighting for a world title and having the chance to make my coach, my community and people across the country proud, I think would just be a dream come true."