Tuesday, March 27, 2007

From street fighter to pro

Four years ago Jamie Johnson was a streetfighter, today he is a kickboxer preparing for his first professional fight against an opponent eager to smash an elbow, knee, hand or shin into his head.

On Sunday, the 21-year-old Taupo man will fight in Brute Force, a Melbourne- based tournament for top Muay Thai fighters.

Muay Thai, a versatile, straightforward martial art where the hands, shins, elbows and knees are used extensively, is the traditional combat sport of Thailand.

Johnson, added to the line up by promoters just a few weeks ago after another New Zealand fighter pulled out, is looking forward to the chance to win the $10,000 prize purse.

He has upped his training and, with confidence in his ability, he has a good chance of making his mark on his first trip overseas since he was two years old.

I think I've got a fair bit of power and my fitness is a lot better than it used to be. It's exciting to get into the ring and it puts a different aspect on fighting,? he says. Johnson came across kickboxing almost by accident.

Three years ago the dairy farmer was on the lookout for a chance to take up boxing. Instead he found former professional kickboxer and trainer Scotty Thomson, who had recently moved to Taupo.

I headed on down [to the gym] and never looked back, says Johnson, who has come a long way since his days as a teenager on the lookout for a scrap.

I used to get into heaps of fights I just liked fighting, he says. Training has bought a new aspect to combat, which for him now requires brains as well as brawn.

It's [kickboxing] helped me control my anger a bit better and improved my discipline.? He trains at least three times a week and manages to build on his fitness in his spare time with a bit of pig hunting.

Johnson has learned a lot from Thomson, who has been involved in kickboxing for more than 20 years.

When the trainer and owner of Freestyle Gym arrived in Taupo, he intended to take a break from the gruelling sport - that wasn't to be. Since he has been here he has managed to get 23 people into the ring. Johnson has been the one who has stuck it out the longest.

Compared to places like Auckland, kickboxing is almost non existent in Taupo, which makes the task of finding sparing partners difficult. That could change, however, with the founding of a fight club at Freestyle Gym.

Thomson intends to have the club, which will cater to everyone from beginners to those who want to go pro, men and women, up and running in the next few weeks.

?What I?m doing now is stepping up to the next level by starting up a proper fight club here, says Thomson.

Meanwhile, whether Johnson wins or loses this weekend the experience will be invaluable. In the ring you don?t get beaten, you get taught a lesson, says Thomson.

You learn more from losses than you do from winning.

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