It’s a beautiful evening and the crickets and stars maintain their vigil outside my humble bamboo abode, the night is clear and cool and the flora all around us is lush from sporadic rains which roll in from now raging ocean. Two nights ago the muffled roar of the changing seasons was audible from this spot, rising from tumultuous seas due west, the once calm Andaman now tortured with debris stolen by heavy skies from other shores and deposited here.
I have just removed four new stitches from my brow, yet five more remain in my leg – not a problem I say! The elbow which opened me up two weeks ago also moved once more the titanium plate in my face, which currently resides precariously close to my eye. My anxieties about not being able to look to the right without turning my whole head proved unfounded when the plastic surgeon informed me that in fact it was merely my eyeball which was lacerated, and not a titanium screw protruding internally into my eyesocket. Phew!
What approaches however, is not merely the monsoon. Within me also storm clouds begin to gather on the horizon. Those clouds are heavy and ominous with thunder and rain, for what looms large before me may very well change my life forever. One week this Friday I face Naruto Banchamek in the final of the 8-man MX Tournament, perhaps the most important moment of my life thus far. Having already defeated three Thai opponents by KO on the show, Naruto is the final obstacle standing between me and a title won in Bangkok and broadcast live not only to this nation but around the globe. Who else can claim such an accollade?
Fittingly, the enormity of the task at hand is very apparent to me as I grind my way through upwards of 6 hours of gruellingly intense training per day. Lesser men could not handle what we subject ourselves to by choice. Fortunately, thanks to Mauricio Calvo I have been working with the best trainers the sport has to offer for over a year now. Leaving the black-hole of positivity and inspiration that was my previous gym far behind, moving to Sutai has literally changed the course of my life forever. Within the space of 18 months everything we could have dreamed of and far more has become reality.
In terms of how I feel about the coming fight, we have developed a very specific game plan which I am at pains to implement at every moment spent in the gym. I could not possibly ask for a more distinguished team in preparation for my 99th fight; on pads I have Ajarn Odd Khemnak, Buakaw’s trainer during his K1 rampaging days, just yesterday I had the privilege of sparring with Kevin Ross, a superstar in his own right. Each day spent in this environment sees progression, each day brings new revelations of instruction and finesse.
“If I can just do this, I can do anything”, I tell myself again and again. “Trust in these people, trust in yourself” and “breathe”, and so the repetitions continue. Here we box until our hands bleed, kick until we lose count, and clinch until we need one hand to hold our heads up over dinner. And we do it all every day because this is how champions are made – because real Heart begins in the gym.
I live for this art, and I have dedicated to it my entire being, to the extent that I barely exist without it. I go to sleep visualising positive goals, and technique, and when I awake at dawn, those thoughts linger in my mind’s eye. It has now reached a fever of obsession, that every waking moment is dedicated to the preparation for the encounter I am about to undertake. Each day more gruelling than the last, each day the challenge, “are you strong enough to become a Bangkok champion?”
For this is the reason true Heart is exhibited every day, grinding in the gym without doubt – often without merit – as the miles and mountains fall underfoot, true Heart is the refusal to give up no matter what, because the power of your ability to dream is far stronger than anything life can set against you. If you can see it, you can be it – all that is possible must first take shape in your mind.