Many of you may not be aware that I almost retired back in 2002 and not by choice either but by being told by the doctors I couldn’t fight again.
If you have read my blog “Your greatest strength can become your greatest weakness” then you will know that I was plagued with a reccuring hand injury that hindered my career.
I had broken the same bone in the exact same place in three consecutive fights and was told I couldn’t fight again.
This really got to me as the thought of not being able to achieve my goals was devastating. You often hear of athletes having their careers cut short due to injuries, I was hoping that I didn’t fall in to these statistics. As a child I’d heard so many people tell me that they could have been this and I could have been that, it use to really annoy me. I never wanted to be one of those people; I wanted to be able to say I did do this and I did that but I felt like that option was being taken away from me.
After months of constant X-rays and steadily strengthening my hand to take impact again I decided to give it one last try.
Steve my trainer and the promoter of the show asked me if I minded if he billed the event as “The Last Chance”. It didn’t bother me but it did make it seem more real that this indeed could be the end of my career.
About 40% of the flyer was taken up with a picture of myself with The Last Chance plastered across the top. The back of the flyer explained why the show was billed as the last chance, going over the highs and lows of my career and what would happen if my hand broke again.
I remember reading it thinking ‘bloody hell the pressure is on now’!
Not only did I have the added pressure of potentially having all my dreams crushed but I picked up a major injury during my fight preparation too.
One afternoon while I was training I felt a sharp burning sensation run down my shin while I was kicking the heavy bag, I thought nothing of it and just continued to finish my session off.
That whole evening while I was teaching my shin felt extremely hot and itchy but when ever I scratched it I would get a burning sensation.
That night when I slept I felt very feverish, I was constantly sweating but felt cold at the same time. Just the feel of the sheets laying on my shin caused that familiar, unpleasant burn.
When I awoke in the morning my shin looked a mess, it was a horrible reddish, orange colour and resembled putty. When ever I pressed on it the imprint would stay for a while before gradually returning to normal.
I thought I’d better check it out so I headed to the hospital.
After an X-ray and a couple of hours waiting I was told that I had fractured my shin.
I really didn’t know what to do, the show was only two weeks away and with all the advertisement being aimed at me I felt that I couldn’t pull out. I didn’t want to let anybody down and I was also eager to test my head out.
I’d decided to go ahead with the fight but the rest of my training just consisted of boxing as I could’t kick. Technically I shouldn’t have been training at all as i wasn’t supposed to be weight baring on my injured leg.
Bit daft really because if one of my students had been in a similar position I would have advised them to pull out. Something inside me just couldn’t or wouldn’t do it ….. I guess I was just young and naive.
For months I’d also been getting out of the habit of throwing hooks. Any combination which involved a hook was replaced with an uppercut. The reason for this is my strongest punch was my left hook/left body shot and every time i’d broken my hand it was when I’d thrown a left hook so we thought best to take that out of the equation.
My opponent for the fight was a Belgian lad going by the name of Nicholas Cartellia. He was a lot taller than me which you’d think i’d be used to by now but I just wasn’t expecting it. In those days the weigh-ins were on the day of the fight and the weight set for the match was 57kg, I came in just under but Cartellia came in at 59kg. For f%&k sake!! ran through my mind, not only did I have the worry of possibly breaking my hand again and not being able to right kick but there was now a 2kg weight advantage going against me.
The weight issue really concerned me as a similar thing happened to me in my last fight. I ended up fighting the Dutch shoot-fighting champion at a weight limit of 58kg. I came in at 57kg but he came in at 63kg, I took the fight but there was just too much of a weight difference to contend with.
After 20 minutes of some alone time, contemplating what to do I just thought sod it i’ll go out with a bang if I have to.
When my name was announced and I began to walk to the ring there was a huge cheer, I’ve always had great support when ever I’ve fought and I have always appreciated that.
I climbed over the ropes as I have always done and stood across from the Belgian fighter. I remember thinking that I was a three time European champion already and I would not have the rest of my dreams taken away from me. I was just going to have to fight differently to the way I had in my past 30 odd fights.
In all of my fights up to this point I’d had the same game plan of just trying to blow my opponents out of the water. I wanted to be the strongest in the ring and just out gun them; this was mainly down to my heroes being Ramon Dekkers and Mike Tyson.
For this fight I was going to have to be clever as my body wasn’t allowing me to fight that way anymore.
The bell sounded for round one and after a couple of seconds of testing him out I knew he wasn’t to my skill level; I just hoped my body didn’t fall apart within the fight.
I tested a kick out on him but it was thrown half heartedly. As it landed I got that burning sensation again but I thought I could cope with it.
I moved around quite gracefully picking my shots with ease and never getting into any trouble or engaging unnecessarily.
When it came to the final round I decided I was going to try some hooks out. It felt nice to be able throw them even if they weren’t at full capacity.
The result was a unanimous decision going in my favour and the joy I felt was overwhelming. The win was a part of it but the knowledge that it wasn’t over for me was the icing on the cake.
My right shin was like putty again but it was well worth it as I could now continue to cement myself in UK Muay Thai history.
I often think what would have happened if I had have pulled out of that fight and my career had ended there. I certainly wouldn’t have gone on to achieve as much as I have today and lets face it the only things you really regret in life are the things that you DIDN’T do.