Not too long ago, Hisyam Samsudin was a chubby 100-kilogram kid in Malaysian Borneo, whose only exercise was getting up off the couch to use the bathroom.
Today, the 26-year-old is an Asian boxing champion and a professional martial artist known as “Zephyrus”, whom at 71 kilograms, is about one-third lighter than the obese youth that grew up in Tawau in Malaysia’s Sabah state.
“When I was a kid, I was not very active. I was just chilling at home. I was shy. I did not really talk to people,” Samsudin says. “I enjoyed eating. It was not candy, though. It was food like rice, chicken, and all the oily stuff.”
During high school, after seeing his buddies getting steady girlfriends, he began playing football and futsal in hopes of shedding weight, and catching the eye of one of his co-ed classmates. Evidently, it did not work.
“After I played, I would go and eat again,” he remembers. “I would lose one kilogram, but gain two just by eating.”
Samsudin’s fitness breakthrough finally came when he began attending university in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, in 2009. Checking out a local gym, he met A.J. “Pyro” Lias Mansor, a Malaysian fitness trainer and martial arts pioneer who would later become the ONE Featherweight Malaysia Tournament Champion.
“He trained me in Muay Thai first, slowly,” Samsudin recalls. “The only reason I followed A.J. (Mansor) was because I wanted to lose weight, not compete.”
That attitude changed as he progressed deeper into his martial arts journey. He started learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling by training twice a day with Mansor. First, they were private sessions at Mansor’s house, and then at Borneo Tribal Squad in 2013.
One day, Mansor asked his student point blank if he was serious enough to start competing. An excited Samsudin said yes. Now, he is now a senior member of the gym’s team, which also includes fellow ONE athletes Ann “Athena” Osman, Audreylaura Boniface, and Kelvin Ong.
Samsudin, who lost his promotional debut in September 2016 by unanimous decision to fellow Malaysian “Jungle Cat” Muhammad Aiman (2-2), will bring renewed determination to his upcoming scrap at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY, live from Indonesia’s Jakarta Convention Center on Saturday, 16 September.
There, he is scheduled to meet Indonesian BJJ specialist Jeremy “Predator” Meciaz (0-1) in a featherweight bout.
“I am not really worried about the ground. Against Meciaz, I will try to get the knockout,” Samsudin states. “Standing, striking, or on the ground, I foresee no problem. If I cannot hit him, I will choke him out.”
“Zephyrus” hopes for a quick conclusion to the match so he can “go out and see Jakarta again.” Unknown to many, Samsudin’s mother is a Java native, and showed the family the Indonesian capital on various holidays. “So when people say he is competing in his hometown, I say it is my hometown too.”
To this day, Samsudin wonders what might have happened if he had never discovered martial arts, and turned his unhealthy life around.
“If A.J. (Mansor) did not ask me about competing in martial arts, I do not think I would be. Maybe I would be in Tawau right now, doing business with my parents, and still being fat,” he laughs. “I might be 100 kilograms again.”
That decision in 2013 paid off more than anyone likely could have imagined. In February 2016, Samsudin replaced an injured Thai athlete at a four-man boxing tournament in Singapore to determine the World Boxing Federation (WBF) Asia-Pacific Light Heavyweight Champion.
Despite being several kilograms underweight, he won the whole tournament, making him the first Malaysian to hold a WBF title. Currently, he is awaiting his first title defense.
In the meantime, Samsudin’s only focus is his upcoming tilt at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY, a sort of homecoming for the former obese child from Borneo.