The heavy hitters of the sport have always been crowd favourites across the globe. Generally in the west we like to see hard fought contests where heavy shots are landed from both parties, until finally one is knocked out. In Thailand they favour more closely fought bouts so they can keep gambling right till the very end. One sided contests tend to be less enjoyable and may even be wavered off if one person is significantly outclassed.
The first example is quite obvious as to why people like the heavy hitters but the second isn’t. The heavy hitters in Thailand are crowd favourites too, from the likes of Dekkers, Coban, Samransak and more recently Anuwat. Again the reason for this is down to gambling, any of the four above mentioned could be behind on the score cards but they had the ability to change the fight around with one shot, so the gamblers could more or less gamble right to the very end.
I’d always wanted to be a crowd favourite and really worked on my punching power when I was younger. The fighters I looked a lot at were Dekkers and Tyson, I liked how they delivered their combinations and the intensity in which they were thrown.
Sometimes though I think when faced against a heavy hitter your mind can play a huge part if whether you get knocked out or not. I’m not saying that if you get caught on the button you won’t go down if you believe you won’t. However, I do believe that if you expect to get knocked out then the chances are you will. This “self for filling prophecy” concept I’ve seen on many occasions as a corner man
My own experience dealing with a heavy hitter, was when I had my first fight with Leroy Atkinson from the Sale West gym back in 1998. Leroy was known to be a big hitter and I’d been watching him fight for years; he even fought for a world title against Dok Mai Pah back in 1990. I remember at the weigh in that no one was really giving me a chance. One of the lads fighting even asked “who’s fighting Leroy?” Someone pointed at me and his response was “him?!” in a surprised tone.
Even at the venue I remember Dave Jackson coming to talk to me, asking how I was feeling. I’d recently lost to Warren Brown (Warren was Dave Jackson’s fighter) a few months before, my first loss, and Warren had recently beat Leroy on points. Dave was telling me, “you won’t knock him out, and he hits very hard so be careful” I was already nervous and that didn’t help. My nerves before a fight are nearly always down to me worrying that I wont perform to the best of my ability. Only two occasions have been down to my fear of the actual opponent. Leroy was one of them the other has been Rungravee.
I was so scared of his power and when the fight started he landed a left hook in the first 30 seconds of the first round and I was knocked out. I was devastated. That was my first and only knock out and it really got to me. I remember getting hit and thinking “F*****g ell” the sensation was like I had no legs and I was falling. I lay on the canvas thinking “I’d better get up now”. As I was about to get up the ref waved it off.
I was a little pissed because I didn’t remember him starting a count, I went to get up and the ref told me to stay down trying to gently hold me down. I wanted to get up so bad and as the ref held me, my language got increasingly worse and slightly more aggressive. I know it was for my safety but I was a little annoyed and wanted to get up.
The Paramedic was a large mean guy and was barking orders at the medical; he’d worked at a few shows I’d fought on before and I couldn’t stand him. “You stay down!” he shouted as he was climbing in to the ring, now I’m a little embarrassed but my response was not polite at all it went something like “you can f**k off as well you fat b*****d”. I got a really filthy look, which I don’t blame him for giving me. Steve and the rest of my corner team came over and told me to lie down which I did, no questions asked.
After watching the video, I was on my back for sometime so I can see why it was waved off; it’s kind of like your missing time when you get knocked out. I’ve seen some fighters get up to carry on fighting at times.
If you look at fighting sports, you always get the heavy hitters who are knocking everyone out, most of the time it’s like they’ve won the fight before they’ve gotten in to the ring. They seem to be put on a pedestal, deeming them almost non-human and impossible to beat. Then, for whatever reason they’re beaten or knocked out. All of a sudden they’re not as dominate as before, they’ve lost that fear factor and they’re opposition appear to stand more of a chance. I had to get this type of thought in to my head if I was ever to fight Leroy again, regardless of whether he was still a dominant figure on the U.K Muay Thai scene.
I fought Leroy a few months later in a rematch. I didn’t care how hard he could hit. I was going to let him know how hard I could hit. When I got in to the centre of the ring I remember looking at him and thinking how small he looked. I stopped him in the second round after giving him three eight counts and breaking his jaw with a thunderous left hook which finished the contest. A few days after the show I got to see the pictures, Leroy was huge compared to me his abs were as big as my fists!
It just shows that your mind is a powerful tool once you know how to use it. “Your body has to do what your brain tells it to”
Dave Jackson called the gym the next day to see how I’d got on; it was nice that he’d taken the time to do this and even nicer to say I’d
won by knock out.