Suzie Q Ramadan: Fighting for Resilience
Suzie Q Ramadan: Fighting for Resilience
[00:00:00] Felicity Cohen: Hello, I’m Felicity Cohen. I’m so excited to introduce you to my Wellness Warriors podcast. For over 20 years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for helping thousands of Australians find solutions to treating obesity and health-related complications through surgical intervention and holistic managed care.
My podcast is dedicated to all the people past, present, and future who have helped shape my journey and continue to inspire me to work consistently to achieve a healthier Australia for both adults and future generations. I hope you enjoy it.
Good morning and welcome to the Wellness Warriors podcast. Today it’s my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Suzie Q Ramadan, holder of five boxing titles across three different weight categories, I think that’s the correct terminology. Your profile is just incredible with so many accolades, titles, awards, and an incredible career. You’re such an amazing female sports icon, and just incredible, so it’s a pleasure to have you here.
Suzie, I would love to start by talking about your life growing up in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, two sisters, you and your sister, Julie, with your parents of Albanian and Turkish descent and, you know, the challenges that you faced as kids. And it looks to me like your sister, Julie was really the catalyst for guiding you in the right direction and making sure that you actually didn’t go off track. Your life really could have gone in two very different directions, right?
[00:01:50] Suzie Q: Yes. Yes, it could have gone in a very, very bad direction, actually. So yeah, thanks to my beautiful sister and obviously, yeah getting into boxing and that sort of stuff as well.
[00:02:02] Felicity Cohen: How did she actually, you know, see that if she didn’t step in and guide you into soccer as your sport in your very early youth days, how did she actually see that maybe things could have gone differently for you? What was it that made her think he could have really gone off the rails?
[00:02:23] Suzie Q: She could see, I just loved, you know, I was just friends with everyone and anyone, and she could see that, you know, I was hanging around with the wrong people and just getting up to the, you know, doing the wrong things and, you know, not looking after myself, not looking after my health or anything like that. And yeah, just getting into too much trouble. So you know, she knew, I, you know, because I got bullied, obviously in high school, when I first started in high school and I think she kind of knew that, you know, I lacked that confidence and self-esteem. And so that’s why, like she pushed me into, you know, playing soccer to meet some, you know, new friends and have something to do and start getting, you know, some exercising.
[00:03:12] Felicity Cohen: And you know, soccer’s a great sport for so many different things. First of all, you know, that sense of community and teamwork and being with other people, hopefully with like-minded attitudes and aspirations, but it also does teach you so much self-discipline and resilience. Can you talk us through, what are some of the things that you really learned on the soccer pitch?
[00:03:36] Suzie Q: Definitely one was teamwork, and I learned more about myself, with what I didn’t realise, well the first year I was like, I think I was falling over more than I was kicking the ball! So I was pretty hopeless, but it was just something that I had in me because I wanted to improve, I didn’t want to let the team down. And it was that I wanted to improve, I wanted to get better and I, there was just this competitive streak in me. So that’s when I really worked on myself and worked on obviously the, you know, learning about soccer more and, and getting better at it so I don’t let it wind down and let myself down as well. So yeah, learning more about me and connections with people and people with the same sort of, you know, it’s where I wanted to be with those sort of people who had that confidence and ability and wanting to progress in a sport so, yeah.
[00:04:34] Felicity Cohen: Do you also believe that that, or helped you channel that early resilience through getting up and learning how to lose as well as how to win? And what was involved?
[00:04:47] Suzie Q: Yeah, definitely. I mean, especially the fact that I wasn’t so good in the first year, I would get teased about it so I just had to, you know, push even higher to learn. So it’s like, it’s not so much, you know when you’re training to learn physically in the sport itself, but it’s also training, you know your mind and things that you might lack in. So, you know, I probably was lacking in being reliable, so I knew I had to be more reliable and, you know, get to training, you know, even earlier and so I could learn more things. So that’s where the resilience definitely started. I think during, because of all the tough challenges that I went through in life, you know, it helped me sort of learning that you can’t control what happens in life, all you can do is control yourself and how you adapt and what you do about it you know? So yeah a combination of things.
[00:05:43] Felicity Cohen: So what were those most significant challenges for you? Was it about the bullying in school and how you fitted in?
[00:05:50] Suzie Q: Yeah, definitely that, I mean, obviously because I was born in Australia, but obviously I’ve got a, you know, a background. And so I used to get bullied for that. I was a very little, skinny girl and I used to get teased about being so skinny and chicken legs and all sorts of things, and so that didn’t help my self-esteem and confidence and stuff like that as well. And obviously, it’s like, I seen a video the other day and a woman was talking about the plant coat, and it was like if the plant doesn’t grow, do you blame the plant or its environment? And because I was somebody who didn’t have any, self-awareness no self-management, social awareness management such as this, I didn’t know who I was, so I didn’t know whether I could grow or not. And not having that social awareness, I didn’t realise, you know, the environment I was in didn’t help either. So yeah, it was, it was many things that, you know, I think it played effects on me as a person and I couldn’t find, and it was hard for me to work out who I was. Until I had to exit that and yeah, make changes and different choices and then learn more about myself and what I was capable of and yeah, sort of more exploring me and finding out who I was and what I could do.
[00:07:11] Felicity Cohen: And you clearly had an incredible skill within soccer and could have continued along that career pathway and chosen soccer as your sport long term from a professional point of view. But at some point, you made the switch to boxing. When did boxing become your thing and how did you actually move and have that shift from soccer to boxing?
[00:07:35] Suzie Q: I got greedy in terms of myself wanting to be better and better! So I wanted to get into a harder sport, an individual sport, which was, you know, boxing is, I mean, both sports are great, you know, but boxing has got a lot more work involved mentally. So I did get it, I did have an injury joint when I’m playing soccer as well but I just wanted something harder. I wanted to, you know, find more of me, you know, because I knew there was something in me because it was like if I had the ability to overcome everything I did in life then there is definitely, that gave me that self-belief and then, you know, doing well in soccer gave me that self-belief that, well, when it came to boxing, it was like, I welcome those challenges. It was like, I knew what I was in for, and that’s what I wanted, you know.
[00:08:37] Felicity Cohen: I feel like you had a message for the world regarding, you know, that fighting of adversity, but actually something to prove and to show your strength, your ability to perform and to succeed and using boxing as your vehicle. So who was your greatest mentors when you moved into the boxing ring and what did you learn from them?
[00:09:01] Suzie Q: Definitely my mother, I think she’s an extremely strong woman and, you know, to put up with me, you know, when I was sort of, you know, off tracks and stuff like that, and the fact that I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like for a mother to see their child box, you know, the mental and emotional control, and that takes a lot of strength, so she’s definitely an inspiration to me.
[00:09:27] Felicity Cohen: She must have had her heart in her stomach every time she saw you step into the boxing ring. I can’t even imagine as a mother, what that would feel like. But apparently, you have never lost a match, is that correct?
[00:09:42] Suzie Q: No, I’ve actually lost three, but they were all three Mexico. So basically, well, the first one was pretty, it was a pretty clear win, but I didn’t get the decision, unfortunately, and the other two were pretty close. But one thing I must say, I’ve achieved a lot in boxing is I’ve never, ever been knocked out or badly hurt in sparing or in any of my fights. So, you know, that’s a great achievement for me.
[00:10:06] Felicity Cohen: So no major injuries or surgery or anything at all! So I’d really love to know, you know, when you look back at your greatest achievements, are there moments that resonate with you outside of the world titles that you know, really stand out separately as your personal achievements?
[00:10:27] Suzie Q: Yeah, I mean, look apart from the titles and obviously never been badly hurt and stuff like that and, and paving the way for women’s box and they’re all great achievements, but for me, I think it was that self-discovery, getting to know me who I was, you know, the self-awareness and stuff like that. I think that was one of my big achievements because we as humans, never sort of look at those things, you know? And especially when you get in the box and you focus so much on the actual sport and your training and everything you’ve got to do, but so it’s like, everyone knows how hard I train and yeah, I can get in the gym and do all that hard training, but it’s the other things that you work on. You know, so for me, it’s like consistency is one of the biggest keys, and that’s something that I’ve been, I’ve always been consistent, and yeah, so for me, I think that is definitely, yeah, the greatest achievement.
[00:11:23] Felicity Cohen: I think with anything in life, those consistent small changes are going to add up over time to amount to something much greater. How do you actually view your overall health and wellbeing, your wellness outside of the boxing ring? Are your nutrition and your diet something that you really focus on, what other areas of lifestyle are really important to you?
[00:11:46] Suzie Q: Well, the discipline, you know, so like obviously boxing is an extremely hard sport and you need that discipline so you have to work, you know, you have to eat clean, eat good, and that’s not just when you’re competing, but no most of the time, it’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a bit of junk here and there, but, yeah, that’s definitely the nutrition. Nutrition is very important, but also recovery, getting good sleep, so you know, especially if you’re training it’s, you know, the recovery is really important.
[00:12:18] Felicity Cohen: If you’re working towards a significant event within boxing, what’s your training schedule look like leading up to that?
[00:12:26] Suzie Q: Well, yeah, it’s like six days a week and twice a day, though, you know, I focus more on quality training as opposed to quantities. Yeah so, my two sessions a day would be, you know, an hour most, but yeah, it’s all good, it’s pretty hard work. It’s obvious, you know, early night, you know, you go to bed early and you eat depending on what weight you find as well. So I don’t move a lot in weight, but I still diet because you need the diet to not only make the weight, but also to be able to perform well during training and in new competitions, and also for recovery.
[00:13:11] Felicity Cohen: What does it feel like when you are actually in the ring and what’s going through your mind when you step into that environment?
[00:13:18] Suzie Q: Oh the adrenaline buzz is amazing! But I think, I don’t think the only thing that goes through my mind is, I’ve prepared well, I’ve done everything right, and I mean, especially if that’s what you, you know if you do everything right, that’s the only thing that will go through your mind when it comes to fighting day. And, you know, you just say to yourself, well, I’ve done everything so now it’s just a matter of, you know, putting into action, yeah.
[00:13:44] Felicity Cohen: When you coach and mentor people now, are there traits or characteristics that you notice things that are common amongst people who do have the capacity for great resilience and strengths of mind? What do you look for?
[00:13:58] Suzie Q: Well, if they’ve got characteristic traits like me, they’re on the right track. I think it’s the people who take responsibility for their mistakes and actually learn from them and want to learn from them. You know, those people who are reliable and consistent, people who are positive and are able to adapt. Now, who welcome challenges as well but it’s not to say that those who don’t have those characteristic traits can’t gain that resilience, it just means they’ve got to work a little extra harder. So it’s obvious things like, well, if they’re not reliable, then they got to say to themselves, “I’m not reliable so I’ve got to work on being reliable” and yeah. So especially the ones who actually want to put in the work for those sort of changes.
[00:14:45] Felicity Cohen: Is that something that you’ve really taken on board and that you see as part of your future goal? Coaching, mentoring, and being involved to give back to boxing, and to other women?
[00:14:55] Suzie Q: Yeah, definitely, you know, that’s where I get the fulfilment from. It’s, you know, being able to give back and helping other people as well. And you know, with society now, it’s really difficult, you know, especially with having things like lockdowns, and all the things going on in life, and you know, we don’t have any control of it. So you know, being able to mentor and help people mentally, it’s a blessing for me and it just feels good to be able to help others.
[00:15:26] Felicity Cohen: Yeah I love that. How did you actually maintain your physical strength and fitness right throughout the lockdowns? Did that limit your capacity to train, and what did that look like for you?
[00:15:37] Suzie Q: Yeah, so, well that’s really when resilience comes in. I mean, for me, it’s like the more the challenge the more I push myself harder, so it’s like, well, I just see a trampoline, you know, we bounce down, we bounce back up again. So, you know, during lockdown it was like, well, I’m not going to stop training, I’m going to stay positive. Positivity is massive, you know? So, it’s all about staying positive and just continuing to do the work regardless of what’s going on.
[00:16:08] Felicity Cohen: You already hold five world titles across three weight divisions. Is there a title that you haven’t got under your belt that you would love to aim for? Or, what is the next big thing for you?
[00:16:18] Suzie Q: Yeah, I’m looking at fighting for another world title, hopefully, this year. So yeah, a bigger title! The last title I won was the WIBA, that was just before COVID happened, the lockdowns and stuff, so yeah, I’m looking at fighting at that same weight division for a bigger title.
[00:16:38] Felicity Cohen: Is this a growing area for women in sport? Do you see more and more women coming on board in boxing and achieving, and setting new goals for themselves?
[00:16:48] Suzie Q: Yeah, I’m loving it! I mean, so many more girls are getting involved and it’s not just the, I mean, the ones who are competing are doing extremely well, they’ve all got those goals and it’s also the fact that when I started boxing, I mean, you’d hardly see, you won’t ever see any females in the gym. So the fact that you’d be able to go into a gym and see girls actually training, the actual, you know, boxing, and even if they’re not competing, learning about how the fighters train and stuff like that, you know, it helps them as well so it’s definitely great to see.
[00:17:27] Felicity Cohen: When you’re looking for inspiration and resilience, who inspires you with their mental toughness?
[00:17:33] Suzie Q: Yeah, definitely my mom, yeah.
[00:17:34] Felicity Cohen: Your mom.
[00:17:36] Suzie Q: Yeah she’s a strong woman. You know, she raised us really well, I mean I was, I was a little bit of a troubled kid. So yeah, you know, and like I said back then, you know, seeing me go through hardships as well, you know, that would’ve affected her. Being bullied at school, like I didn’t even want to go to school and stuff like that. So, you know, for her to be able to go through all that stuff and then see me boxing, it takes a lot of strength. So she’s definitely an inspiration!
[00:18:07] Felicity Cohen: She sounds incredible. That must have been hard for your parents, you know, they would’ve been, I imagine two working parents doing the best they could to raise both you and your sister, Julie. So you would’ve seen her also face her own personal challenges to just do the best they could as parents. What do you think she sees as her greatest challenge apart from, you know, raising you and your sister?
[00:18:33] Suzie Q: I think she still, they, my parents still made the time for us, like regardless. Like they could be working two jobs or whatever, but they always make time, you know, especially like, you know, birthdays and things like that. They would really make, yeah, they would always make that time for us, spend time with us, take us out, and I think it’s the whole support that they’ve given us so much support. We, you know, I mean, me choosing a sport like boxing, I mean very hard for, you know, any parents to support that, so for them to give me that hundred per cent support really made a massive difference.
[00:19:07] Felicity Cohen: What age were you when you actually stepped into boxing?
[00:19:11] Suzie Q: I was in my young twenties like I think 25 I was, yeah.
[00:19:16] Felicity Cohen: Amazing. So, you know, we see that bullying is such a prevalent and, you know, problematic issue for so many youths, children, and adolescents facing bullying. What’s one message that you would give to kids out there who are facing this right now to help them to move forward and step away from that kind of environment?
[00:19:38] Suzie Q: Yeah. I mean, especially with the social media bullying as well, there’s a lot of that happens and it’s hard for kids to deal with that. So I think they need to focus on things that they want to achieve in life. You know, so that’s very important to always stay positive, to have good support around them. I think the environment is very important, but have people who support them and help them, you know, think about their goals, work on them, and keep them busy. I think the more I keep them busy and focus on other things and the important things in life and achieving things will make a big difference.
[00:20:17] Felicity Cohen: Yeah. So when you’re faced with adversity, what are your top tips to really help you push through? How do you deal with it?
[00:20:26] Suzie Q: Refuse to give up! You know, and I think gratitude is very important because you’ve got to look at them, you know, good points. Like I’m a very optimistic person and I always like to stay positive. So I think you’ve just got to have that gratitude to remember how far you’ve come and it’s just another hurdle. Yeah, just that, think about that trampoline, it was just a matter of bouncing back up again.
[00:20:52] Felicity Cohen: Love it. And you know, congratulations on being such an incredible role model for not just women who have to face difficult challenges, but for all of those women in sport and up-and-coming girls and women who are looking at potentially boxing as an opportunity, as an outlet or as their sport. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that you’re giving back to your sport as well. And I’ve never been exposed to boxing so much, but now I’m super excited and I can’t wait to see you go through and achieve that next world title, I’m really looking forward to it now, so thank you for giving me the chance to see what that’s all about.
What do you wish you knew about wellness 10 years ago?
[00:21:34] Suzie Q: Well, I don’t really wish I knew anything because the sort of like, I think life is about learning. So because of, you know, how I live my life and that, you know, self-discovery and learning about me and stuff, I think I wouldn’t be who I am today. But I would’ve liked to know the difference between that fleeting happiness and fulfilment. You know, I would’ve done a lot more giving back earlier, you know, because that’s where you get that fulfilment from. And it’s that fleeting happiness is like, you know, happiness comes and goes and it’s those times when happiness goes is when things can go downhill, so that’s where it’s very important to have that, to be able to have that fulfilment in your life, and you know, to always, always be happy because you’re not, you know, you are actually making a difference. And as you, you know, there’s value there that you’ve given to other people as well. So, you know, that would’ve, that would’ve been good to know earlier. I would’ve done a lot more. But you know, I’m just glad I do now because that’s something that, you know, a lot of people, it takes them a very long time to learn and some people never do. So yeah, I’m thankful for that.
[00:22:47] Felicity Cohen: I think that’s a really great takeaway and lesson for us all, that difference between fleeting happiness and genuine fulfilment in life. So thank you so much for sharing that, really great insight!
And finally my last question for you this morning, our listeners are all Wellness Warriors, and we know that wellness is worth fighting for once you lose your health and you spend the rest of your life fighting to get it back, whether that’s physical or mental or spiritual health and something that’s always inspiring to learn about is how others are going on their wellness journey.
So my last question today for you, Suzie, is can you share a time with us when you were struggling with your wellness and what did you do to fight for it or reclaim it?
[00:23:33] Suzie Q: Yeah, it was that time when I was that plant, I would blame myself and be that person to be saying, “oh, why is everything happening to me?” and yeah, it was, I was going through a very difficult time in my life, there were so many things that were going wrong and not having control of anything. So I, you know, wellness is, you know, the mind and body affect each other and so, because of everything that was going on, my health wasn’t too good and I wasn’t looking after myself and those sorts of things. So it was a combination of, you know, obviously mental, physical, emotional, social, you know, health that I needed to work on. And that’s when I started training to get my health back and first fell in love with boxing and soccer. But yeah, then chose to do boxing obviously, and absolutely loved it, and yeah, it helped me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and everything so I’m glad I made that choice.
[00:24:39] Felicity Cohen: An absolute inspiration and congratulations on all of your incredible achievements. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here on the Wellness Warriors podcast, and we look forward to following you through the next stage of your boxing career.
Thanks so much, Suzie.
[00:24:55] Suzie Q: Thank you so much. It was nice to meet you too.