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Why cyber grad Shafiul took to the ring and joined the Army Reserves

Shafiul Mannan readily admits that he was close to ‘going off the rails’ when he was in his teens.

But now, the 22-year-old from Newport has a big future ahead of him, having just gained an honours degree in cyber security from the University of South Wales (USW), been crowned a Welsh boxing champion, and is giving up a good deal of his free time as an army reservist.

Shaf’s road to a higher education qualification started when he was studying for his A-levels, first at Newport’s John Frost School, and then at Cross Keys College, but it was also the time when he felt a change of lifestyle was needed.

“It’s a bit of a cliche story, but I was getting the wrong crowd and doing things that I really shouldn’t be doing,” Shaf said.

“Then I kind of decided, you know, it’s now or never – it’s time to turn my life around and get onto a better pathway to achieve the kind of things I’ve want to achieve.”

Although he had always been keen to get involved in supporting the world around him, Shaf’s first inspiration to get involved with the Army Reserves came in part from a public service course he was studying while doing his A-levels.

“When I was a kid I was always interested in what it would be like to be a soldier and give something back to society, so when I heard about the Army Reserves it seemed like the ideal opportunity,” he said.

Since joining up, Shaf now gives a number of weekends a month to the Reserves, an interest which has given presented him with one of his best moments.

“As an Army Reservist I was involved in the Remembrance Parade in Cardiff, and that was one of the proudest times in my life. It really was something very special,” Shaf said.

He has also proved himself to be a top performer when he steps into the boxing ring.

“At around the same time I looked at joining the Reserves I decided to get involved in boxing,” he said. “I’ve been boxing for a couple of years now, and it also stemmed from wanting to get some discipline into my life. I knew I had a knack for it and I’ve always like loved the sport.”

After joining up with Saint Joseph’s Amateur Boxing Club in Newport, Shaf trained for a number of years before finding himself thrown in at the deep end.

“There was a boxing event happening in Newport but I thought I wouldn’t be able to take part because I hadn’t received my licence,” Shaf said. “However, a few days beforehand the licence came through, which meant I could box – and thankfully an assignment deadline passed the day before so I didn’t have that on my mind.

“Then, a month later – which was the day before another assignment was due to be handed in – I was crowned Welsh Amateur Champion. Before the fight I was really nervous and didn’t know how I’d do – however, in the second round I won on a TKO – technical knock-out. Although I was nervous I had confidence in my skillset.”

With a number of accolades already under his belt, Shaf’s successes have continued this summer  with the completion of his degree in cyber security – and it was on another special day that he heard he’d passed.

“I was on holiday in Turkey during Eid when I got the news that I’d passed my course, so it was a double celebration. Alhamdullilah for everything.” Shaf said.

“It was great to get the news that years of hard work had paid off. I’d always been interested in studying something to do with Information and communication technology, which is the career pathway that I’ve been going down through GCSE and A-levels, and I studied that in college too.

“Getting onto the degree course, and now passing, means I can look at career options in the field. I’m still looking around at what to do next, but now I have this qualification I have a number of options available to me that I could follow in the next few years.”