Muay Thai Ontario: Looking to the Future

Jeff Harrison / November 10, 2016 - 4:51pm

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Airplane mode is a strange thing. With no connection to the almighty inter-web, cruising over the Atlantic en route to an international fight gala in Vienna, Austria, I decided to begin typing into my phone’s notepad in an effort to get started on an opinion piece I had wanted to get going on for a while. The content of this blog and the reason I am whizzing over the ocean at top speeds on Air Lufthansa are intertwined and tangled together. That in itself serves as enough motivation to get the word count pumping… You see I am very grateful to be a part of something extremely special. That something is Ontario Muay Thai.  Ontario Muay Thai is respected world wide. This didn’t happen by accident…

THE PAST

Lineage

Muay Thai traditionally holds a tremendous honour for lineage. You must respect your teachers and predecessors. You must have Wai Kru. The Ontario we know now was built on the backs of a band of hard working giants. I am flying an all-expense paid trip that is a result of a cashing in of points of merit accumulated by the Ontario fight scene. As a successful coach in this province I am extremely grateful for the excellence attained on a world level by the incredible coaches and athletes before me. I travel an opportune road paved by the expertise of the generation before me with the smouldering asphalt; a mixture of their hard work, commitment and sacrifice. The success and culture found here is a culmination of taking the regional game of Muay Thai from the packed garage gyms of Ahjan Suchart, Shawn Tompkins and Steve Witter, to the legendary shows CAMTAO shows in Cambridge put on by Khan Phady, Fight Network events hosted by Kru Alin Halmagean and company, the shows put on by Chris Kew and myself, to the REC promotions crew in Ottawa, the TKO gang in Kitchener, the Ultimate Martial arts crew in Scarborough and so on and so on and so on until “POW!” It’s 2016 and our sport is literally pulsating with multiple shows by multiple promoters almost every weekend.

So how good is Ontario Muay Thai?

Powerhouse coaches like Ahjan Suchart (regarded as the father of Muay Thai in Canada), the three Ahjan brothers from the Phady Family (all of which fought professionally in Thailand), Kru Alin Halmagean, Kru Chris Kew, Kru Darwin Miranda, Kru Paul Minhas have all produced professional Muay Thai Champions. Clifton Brown was a five-time Muay Thai world champion and fought the best of the best in the late 90s and 2000s. Bazooka Joe Valtellini retired a Glory kickboxing champ under Minhas. Until recently, Kru Alin-trained Gabriel Varga was the Glory featherweight champion, while former Siam No. 1 stylist Matt Embree of the 416 is now hailed as No. 1 contender after brutally destroying quality opponents in the contender tournament and is itching to beat Van Roosmalen in Los Angeles in January and drape that Canadian flag over the coveted title belt. Simon Marcus, a protégé of Suchart is 45-5 in Kickboxing/Muay Thai and also No. 1 contender in Glory in his respective division. MAS Thai boxing product Robert Thomas is always a dangerous contender as well in both Glory and pro boxing, while his female team mate Ashley Nichols has earned four pro world titles  and is coming off a big win in China since dropping a decision to superstar Tiff Van Soeust with no damage taken. Janice Lyn of Krudar  won a WPMTF World title and just won a huge title in Hong Kong! The UFC’S Alex Ricci and Shane Campbell came up in rough-and-tumble scene as well. Every fighter signed to the UFC, TKO or other major MMA production from the trillium province experiences the trickling down of the strong lineage of the eight-limbed science. Matthew Richardson from Ottawa is fighting the legendary John Wayne Parr soon. Denis Puric knocked Pornsonae flat. Joe Tipping has won multiple pro belts. My good friend and training partner 20-3 Mark Holst of OAMA has fought the best Lion Fight has to offer and recently won in Paris at the Best of Siam show. A new breed of professionals is also emerging. Joey George of MAS, Chris Williams of Killa Fight Team, Stan Mancebo and Matt Kendall of Pound for Pound, Ben Pryde of Westside Muay Thai, Regan Gowing of OAMA and the very slick Eric Rocha of Evolution MAFA under Gerald Ching are all finding success in the grueling grind of fighting Thai Boxing for money.

The proof is in the pudding and wherever our best go they do well. They have paved the way for this…

THE PRESENT

The Ontario Muay Thai explosion

Ontario Muay Thai is about as active and buzzing as it has ever been. After the shutdown of the Provincial Sport Organization CAMTAO in 2009 the sport’s activity was literally reduced to a medium dribble in the province. The baron, egocentric, political atmosphere that Muay Thai or “K1” existed in post- CAMTAO- mortem was honestly bleak. The sound of Thai music, excited corner men and the smell of Thai oil was tucked away by the unpassionate hand of governmental demands and insurance protocol. From dress code to volume of the coaching staff; it was policed. This is not said for slanderous reasons. The people involved in the era were awesome. This doesn’t mean that great fights didn’t happen, or that talent wasn’t fostered. Many hot prospects emerged. It was just a bit bland and oppressed; a bit too imperial which turned many teams and affiliations off. The 2009-2014 legal body demanded allegiances and loyalty and often saw athletes/gyms that didn’t want to choose sides threatened with expulsion or other penalties, which ultimately resulted in division. This over policed dark era lasted for years and literally almost sucked the passion out of the sport, forcing the purists to settle for demonstration in house events where athletes would both have their hands raised at the end of a “match” to avoid being accused of Prizefighting, a breach of section 83 of the criminal code. The yearning amongst Ontario’s Thai Boxing gyms to compete in actually Muay Thai, the sport that transcends simple savagery and enters the realm of spiritual experience through its deep roots in tradition and culture was so great that attendance at North American tournaments in the States were vastly overrun by Ontarians.

Lately things have been looking up. Remarkably here we are, roughly three years into a new era of lush, talent cultivating abundance in the sport. Between the PSO CASK’s tournaments in the Muay Thai “dark ages”, the uprising of World Amateur Muay Thai Association of Canada led by Khan Phady, the literal explosion of the World Kickboxing Federation Canada in Ontario under President Wolfgang Brutter over the last two years and now Muay Thai Ontario/Muay Thai Canada (the vision of Ahjan Suchart and his pupils) as well staking claim, some world-class talent is emerging. With the possibility of punishment for floating between sanctioning bodies gone, we now see gyms, coaches and athletes participating in all of the leagues, which will only result in one thing; greater experience and greater Ontario Muay Thai. The drought is over and has been replaced by a near over saturation of events and tournaments. And even better, with the new progressive approach to sanctioning we will now see the stars of each respective body clash at the top; a premise that has all of us absolutely ecstatic.

If you want to fight, it’s a good time to be an athlete in the 1,000,000 plus square kilometres that comprises Ontario. This week and weekend there are over 30 elite combat athletes in Italy for the WKF World Championships. Gyms from all over the province have put their best foot forward and expectations as well as morale are high. What is even crazier is that Muay Thai Canada is putting on a massive tournament this weekend as well! Over 200 athletes, even top-seeded professionals are competing in Toronto to decide who gets to be the best in the country and represent Canada at upcoming world level tournaments. This week might be the biggest week in the history of Ontario Muay Thai.

THE FUTURE

Rhetoric vs. Reality

We live in a fight culture where every single athlete is a star; with pages, channels, followers and magniloquent praises typed by loyal fans in the comment boxes of professionally shot “glamour shots” that serve as pixelated online reminders to the world that the individual is a complete bad ass. This plays an important role I guess, as promoters need to sell tickets and popularity is important for business. However the beauty of combat is that reality always trumps rhetoric. For every minute the bar star who sells 150 tickets to his next fight spends creating a dramatic motivational meme with a black and white shot of him wrapping his hands in the background there is a future superstar quietly and humbly toiling in the gym, on the road thinking only of being the best… of being world class; of surpassing the accolades and pinnacles of the previously spoken legends and creating their own version of legacy. I’ve selected these eight athletes without a single regard for popularity or hype. Facts and reality determined my top four for both my male and female prospect list.  Here it is…

The next generation

So who is next?  Who will be the next striking sensation blowing up our newsfeeds and YouTube channels? I had a list as long as a Fairtex banana bag for both sexes, but after carefully calculating records, achievements, and also factoring in who beat who, the list got narrowed down to these eight elite combat athletes.

Male

#1 Jordan Graham

Timing beats speed and technique beats power. While Jordan possesses all of those traits, the fights I have seen have been decided by his incredible technique and placement. This kid has done it all already, riding a fast and very active career to a 36-8 record in Muay Thai which recently took him to achieving IFMA gold; a tournament riddled with experienced pros from around the world and an accomplishment that most fighters can only dream about. Jordan is also 6-0 in amateur MMA. The fact that he is only years old and the decisiveness of his victories leads me to crown this young stud from Loyalist MMA in Belleville as the number one prospect in the province today. If he doesn’t become a household name in MMA or striking I will be shocked.

2016  63.5 kg Amateur IFMA World Champion

2015 57 kg WKA World Champion

63.5kg Tri-City Fighting series champ

2015 62.5 kg Muay Thai Ontario provincial champ

2015 57kg WKA North American Champion

2014 57kg WKA North American Champion

2014 60 kg CASK Eastern Canadian Champion

2014 60 kg CASK National Champion

2013 60kg CASK National Champion

2013 60kg WAKO North American Champion

Greatest win: Jose Ruben Cruz from Mexico in Jonkoping Sweden

Next fight is in January with TKO MMA in Montreal Quebec Canada at flyweight (125lbs)

#2 Amin Almelik

“I’m so fast I turned off the light switch and was in bed before the room was dark!” It’s too bad that line was used already. With a record of 24-2-2, Mr. Clean has the best win percentage out of the bunch. This Toronto-based fighter out of Warrior Muay Thai is a close second to Graham only because of his lack of international experience and the depth of his opponents. Still, this pupil of Ontario Muay Thai pioneer Kru Zubair Khan is fast, technical, and relentless.  This coupled with the fact that squaring off with him is like fighting a shadow (the man is hard to hit) makes fighting him a dubious task for the best guys out there. At 21 years of age, the sky is the limit!

2x IKF Champion

2x TBA North American Champion

WKA National Champion

USMTA Welterweight Champion

WAMTAC Welterweight Ontario Champion

WAMTAC Welterweight North American Champion

IBF Ring Wars Champion

Victory Combat Sports Welterweight Champion

Biggest win: Daniel Kechego

Next fight: Alex Rozicki Dec 3rd Brantford, Ontario

#3 Jake Mackenzie 

Steven Lee is the best coach the general public has never heard of. He runs a very impressive fleet out of Redemption Muay Thai along with his partners and is a true perfectionist. This can be seen in his prize pupil Mackenzie, who has been on a tear since day one of starting his career. “Saiyan” at the age of 22 boasts an extremely impressive 38-6 record and is running out of room for the belts he has been collecting. This kid has the skill, the look, and the dynamic athletic ability. With the proper management these attributes could propel him into superstardom.

Cask 75kg Provincial Champ 2011/2012

Cask 75kg National Champion 2012

USMTA  New York Middle Weight Champ 2012

TBA Light Middleweight Champion 2013

IKF East Coast Classic Cruiser Weight champion 2014

WKF Middleweight Champion 2014

2x Bronze medalist at IFMA World Championship 2014 and2015

Destiny Fights Middleweight Champion 2015

IKF World Middleweight Champion 2016

Biggest win to date: Bulgarian Champion ( name unknown) at World Championships in Malaysia

Next fight: MTO Tournament, Toronto November 12-13th

#4 Jay Hienz 

The underground king. This athlete is old enough to be most of the other candidate’s fathers ( sorry man its true). He is a very skilled Nak Muay, kickboxer and boxer as well who fights under well-respected coaches Kru Rich Cruz and Kru Saji Bolo. While his speed does not reflect his age, his ring savvy and ability to control the fight does. Hienz won a very important tournament in 2014 in NYC that pretty much crowned him the king of his division in North America. A highlight of his career is also a recent destruction of his competition at the WAKO Pan American Games in Mexico! Jay has all the credentials to be higher on this list, but age slightly reduces his prospect appeal. So Lion Fight, Bellator, Glory, etc… Pick this guy up NOW!

TBA Champion 2010

CASK Provincial Champion 2010-2013

Cask National Champion 2010-2013

WAKO North American Champion 2013

WAKO Bronze Medal 2013

WAKO Pan American Champion 2016

Greatest Win: Nadir Ruiz of Argentina

Next fight: TBA

Female

#1 Savannah Foden

This unassuming teen’s potential is ridiculous. Her age and experience alone puts her at the top of the list. She is 18-0 in full contact Muay Thai and 11-1 in light contact kickboxing and has won major tournaments including TBA, IKF and IFMA, which essentially crowns her as top of the global food chain for her age and weight. A product of Kru Brendan Kalijundic at Kalsamrit in Oshawa, “Lion Heart” has everything it takes to be the next Caley Reese or Julie Kitchen. I have personally seen this year old beat grown adult elite athletes mercilessly and I personally am one of her biggest fans. Her style is technical, aggressive and calculating and I can’t wait to see what heights she can reach.

Ontario Winter Games Gold Medalist

CASK Provincial Champion 2012

Toronto Super sport Jr Champion

Canada Cup Champion 2012

2013 GrandPrix Champion x 2

TBA Champion 2013-2016

IKF Champion 2013-2016

WAMTAC Jr Featherweight Champion

WKA National Champion

IKF East Coast Champion

IFMA Gold medalist

Biggest win: IFMA tournament

Next fight: TBA

#2 Taylor McClatchie 

I may be a bit biased, as I am her coach at OAMA, but a 16-0 record with six titles to her name simply doesn’t lie. Outside of the top tier pros Janice Lynn and Ashley Nichols (a fight that would never happen due to affiliations) there is no one left for her to beat in Ontario. Work rate and relentless pressure are the tools of the trade, as she knows in her heart she trains harder than any girl at her level. Kicks, punches clinch and decent defense. She has it all but is still only starting to find her stride. If she successfully wins the WKF World Championship this weekend in Italy, expect many doors to open on a professional level!

TBA Champion 2014, 2015

Event Title Caged Dragon Promotions 2015

MTO Provincial Champion 2016

WKF Ontario Champion 2016

5th Round Promotion Champion 2016

Intercontinental Super fight Winner 2016

Biggest Win: World Champion Delia Georgescu in Vienna Austria

Next fight: WKF World Championships Italy Nov 8-12th

#3 Isabelle Lacroix 

Isabelle is hard to match up. She is a notoriously slick and powerful Nak Muay with a knack for leaving her opponents on the canvass. She is completely immersed in Martial Arts and is a student of the highly regarded Kru Chris Kew of MAS Thai boxing. She has fought with success globally in Thai Boxing and is transitioning into MMA. An innate sense of distance and how to make opponent’s miss that is so evident in Kew’s top athletes leaves her opponents struggling to connect during matches. Isabelle processes a solid 10-3 record, plus a massive amount of demonstration experience, all of the skills and tools required to be one of the great Canadian champions.

TBA Champion 2013

LBTM North American Pro Am Champion

WMO Jr World Champion

Biggest win: WMO World championship title mathc

Next fight: TBA

#4 Liv Loth

Kru Darwin Miranda has a fine history of producing strong, fit athletes with incredibly sound fundamentals. His young protégé Liv Loth is a shining example of the Krudar system and is right on track to take her Muay Thai to a national and global level. With a record of 9-2, Liv beat an insanely tough Candice Mitchell to win the provincial MTO title in 2015, and went on to win big fights in Bangkok as well. Seemingly as fearless and relaxed as they come, there is a poise and elegance about her fighting style that seems so natural. If you see her fight it is evident that a Muay Thai ring is where she belongs.

Biggest win: Candice Mitchell

Next Fight: MTO tournament Toronto November 12-13