96 PenangIt’s been a little hectic the past few months with sorting things out for the gym, family and seminars, but as I’ve got five minutes I thought I’d give you another one of my Thailand tales.

If you’ve followed my blogs you may recall one titled a dark time in my career. This was when I was at an all time low in Thailand, financially and psychologically.

I was training at a gym called Rom Pho which was in the car park of an apartment block called Rom Pho mansion.

The gym did not have a great reputation, the only reason I was there was because it was free. I bearly had enough money to live off let alone pay the extortionate prices foreigners are charged for training. All I had to do was give Pek (the owner at the time) 30% of my purse when I fought.

The gym had no Thais training in it whatsoever and apart from a few Russian and Irish boys such as Mick Paszowski, Dzhabar, Mohammed and Arslan, the rest where just beginners.

I had a big fight coming up in Australia against Aaron Leigh and to be honest, the only reason that I went through with it was because it paid well and would clear all of the debts that I’d accumulated in Thailand. It would have been far easier if I’d have just done a runner and flew back to the UK, but it wouldn’t have been fair to leave my ex with the financial strains that we had both obtained.

As Pek was going to get 30% of a decent purse, he decided to take some interest in my training. He suggested that I go to a predominately Thai gym to help improve my clinching.

“Tomorrow I take you Thai camp.” he said “You will learn good clinch.”

The following day at 3.30pm, I met Pek and headed to the other camp. We must have only been in the truck for about 10 minutes before we arrived.

The camp, known as 96 Penang, was situated in the slums of Klong Toei under an expressway. An iron fence surrounded the gym with two large gates as the entrance. Almost directly in front of the gates was a fully opporational train track. Around the rest of the visual area was what looked like a plywood shanty town, I’m guessing because they were sheltered from elements due to the expressway they could afford to build their homes out of anything.

Pek walked through the gates to talk to the boss of the camp and asked if it was ok for me to clinch with his boxers.

While I was waiting I started to look around, the gym certainly fitted in with it’s shanty town surroundings. The gym’s pet dog was also a site to be seen, it made the local soi dogs look healthy. He had no fur apart from a few patches scattered here and there with lumps covering the rest of his body. One of his eyes looked almost closed shut due to the severity of the skin condition. However, despite the abnormalities he seemed very happy and all the lads in the gym were very kind and friendly to him.

The camp had two boxing rings, one near the entrance and the other across from it about 20-25 meters away. The older lads trained in the ring near the entrance, while younger boys trained in the other.

There must have been about 20 lads clinching in the ring near the entrance, one of the trainers called out to one of boxers in the ring while Pek signalled to me to get in. The look on the young Thai’s face was that of disappointment as he’d been selected to clinch with the ‘farrang’ (foreigner, I actually despise this word). The rest of the lads started sniggering as he made his way towards me.

I was pretty much on the deck as soon as we started clinching, this was a constant theme for about 10 minutes until the trainer signalled for me to come out. He pointed to the ring where the young boxers were training.

It was a little degrading to be honest but the younger lads were far more friendly to me. Most of them were about 40kg so I had a weight advantage, they still threw me around just not as often.

The clinching session lasted for 40 minutes with 300 hundred knees in the air to finish.

I felt a beaten man as I made my way back to Pek’s truck, I now had to go and do my pads and bag work back at Rom Pho. I bowed to the boss of 96 Penang camp as I left to say thank you and show my respect.

Pek told me that I must make my own way here in the afternoons to clinch, then I must run up to Rom Pho to finish off my training.

For three weeks I would arrive at 3pm, run with the boxers for about three miles, clinch in the kids ring for 40 minutes, do 300 hundred knees then run back to Rom Pho for my pad and bag work.

The boss of the camp must have seen an improvement in those three weeks as he decided to put me in with the big lads again. I still got thrown around, just not as much as before and occasionally I was able to pull a few throws of my own.

I was a small fish in a very large pond but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, this was the biggest technical learning curve that I got from being in Thailand.

Being surrounded by so many people who’s technical ability far surpassed mine really helped me improve my game. I guess for the boxers of 96 Penang it wasn’t such a burden for them to clinch with the foreigner in the end.

A small fish in a big pond has the potential to grow and adapt to it’s surroundings whereas a big fish in a small pond leaves no room for progression.

96 Penang features quite a lot after 44 seconds in the video…enjoy