Ruqsana Begum was born and brought up in Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex, England and is the second child among four
Ruqsana Begum, born to a Bangladeshi Muslim family in England, and winner of the British, European and World Muay Thai kickboxing, made her professional debut Saturday after signing with former heavyweight champion David Haye’s Hayemaker Promotions.
On her debut, Ruqsana recorded a shared win with Bulgaria’s Ivanka Ivanova.
The road to success was not easy for the 34-year-old Muslim woman who had to receive training in secret for fear of community backlash.
“I had a very strict Muslim upbringing,” she told BBC. “My family were very protective of me. So I felt like I couldn’t tell them I was training in combat sports, because I thought they wouldn’t allow me to. I was worried I would have to choose either the sport I fell in love with or my family.”
Hailing from a traditional, religious family, she was unable to inform her family members about her passion for years. She even hid her trophies from her family for about five years for fear of disapproval.
She said: “When I was younger I used to get up extra early on a Sunday morning, make sure all the house chores were done, keep my mum super happy and then ask her, really politely: ‘Mum can I go to the gym for an hour?’
“Then I’d rush to the gym, get my training in Muay Thai done and run back home. My family didn’t know what I was doing there.
“I just fell in love with the sport, I had such a confined upbringing that I finally found an outlet to express myself, but I was definitely leading a double life.
“When I started competing, I wanted my family’s blessing. I didn’t want to go behind their back any more. I wanted my mum’s prayers.”
Ruqsana was born and brought up in Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex, England and is the second child among four.
What makes her success story all the more appealing is, despite suffering from chronic fatigue illness Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) which severely limits her training, she won the world title.
“I didn’t have any doors open to me, it was a hard, long struggle over 10-15 years to receive approval from my parents, my community, my coaches,” she said.