Tania Presutti reports
Thaiboxing is growing in Ireland. Not only as a side note to Conor McGregor and MMA, but as a sport in its own right. Siam Warriors in Cork has been leading the way. Bringing big international stars to its events, Siam has built a large fan base for the sport and raised the profile of national fighters. It was therefore fitting that it was young wonder boy of Irish Muay Thai, Ryan Sheehan, who became Ireland’s first World WKA Champion in Thaiboxing on Saturday, October 22. Sheehan fought the Japanese contender Hiroyuki Moji for the WKA world title in front of a roaring home crowd in the Neptune Stadium in Cork.
The battle was back and forth in the first two rounds, with fighters trading kicks and punches. Hiroyuki Moji might have been the replacement fighter, but it was soon clear that the Japanese fighter was in town to win. He was fast and looked on par with Sheehan point wise, however in the third round Ryan seemed to slowly gain the upper hand. Little by little his game fell into place and he started to dominate the clinch, utilising his reach and height, to hit his opponent, whom by round four looked tired. Hiroyuki tried his best to come back in the beginning of the fifth and final round but Ryan Sheehan was too strong and too far ahead on the scorecards for it to matter. After 15 minutes of intense fighting, Sheehan was still able to lift his arms and put the long awaited belt around his waist to the delight of the fans.
Besides the world title fight, there were a handful of domestic titles on the line, including promoter and main force behind the event, Martin Horgan, who was fighting for a domestic title (lost an exciting close fight on points). It was a great night for combat sport fans and Irish Muay Thai in general. Despite being an ancient sport in Thailand, Thaiboxing (Muay Thai) is relatively new in Ireland and only recently has the sport started bringing up juniors (kids classes and junior events) and allowing people to grow up within the sport.
One of the well-known faces in Irish Muay Thai, Andrew ’Brucie’ O’Brien just started taking kids into his gym in Bandon. Brucie, as he is best known as, has been running Bandon Muay Thai for seven years and has been active in the sport for the past 18.
Like many other ’first generation’ muay thai practitioners, his road to the sport came from traditional martial arts. “I started out doing karate, but as time went by, I realised I was missing something. I wanted more contact and I wanted to use my arms more. I wanted to try kickboxing but couldn’t find a class. I found Thaiboxing instead and stopped looking after that. Thaiboxing has been my ’home’ ever since.’
“I like everything about Thaiboxing. I like the training, the feeling you get after doing pads, the excitement of the fights. And after I opened up the gym to kids’ classes, I really benefit from watching them progress. The release of energy is so observable on their faces and body language. You can almost see all the pent-up energy being let out. It’s great fun and I know from their parents that they love the training. I have a couple of young kids who are competing at a junior show at the end of November. They will get a taste of what it’s like and we’ll from there. My goal is to build a fight team (of girls and boys) around my kid class, as it gives them a purpose and focus for their training and it’s rewarding as a coach. Of course no one is forced to compete or spar. It’s all down to the kids and what they are interested in doing.
Brucie was active at the fight night, in the corner of two fighters, helping out an old training partner Roberty NG from Eiremuaysiam, Limerick.
He is currently doing mixed adult and kids classes throughout the week. A class usually consists of a thorough warm up, pad work (partner work, where each takes turn to hit a specific running order of techniques / kicks and punches on the pads), a bit of strength work and a cool down.
Classes are for everybody, from people who are coming to get fit and lose weight, to people who want to learn to fight in thaiboxing.