Craig Dickson VS Saenchai- 20th Sept, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

When the opportunity arose for Craig to fight Saenchai P.K. Saenchai Muay Thai Gym at ‘Thai Fight World Battle Vietnam 2014′, Craig Dickson grasped it with both hands.  Obviously he realised this would be a very significant challenge and that the odds were very much stacked against him. However, he was intelligent enough to realise that the experience alone would lead to personal growth beyond imagination.

For Craig the period of preparation was relatively short for a fight at this level. Confirmation of the Saenchai fight came approximately three weeks before the fight. Two weeks prior to this, Craig had another challenging fight with the Malaysian Champion, Bow Suweilek. That fight took place in Kedah and it was with some panache that Craig won the fight by KO in the third round, despite being considered the outsider by the extremely partisan Malaysian crowd.

Such an opportunity for a gym’s fighter involves every person in the team in preparing for the fight. Of course at the centre of it all is Craig, who as much as anything had a huge amount of mental preparation to do.  Although Craig’s recent run of wins has been impressive against some very credible opponents, Saenchai was a huge step up for him.

In the run up to the fight Craig was, of course, the focus. The team at the gym did everything possible to assist. He had the support of the other sponsored fighters who were ready to push him to his absolute limits in the weeks leading up to the fight.  Every single trainer at the gym worked with Craig to impart what knowledge they could to help in this legendary battle. There was all the marketing effort, which is something we as a gym place high priority on. There was also all of the organisation required in co-ordinating getting the team to Vietnam and making arrangements for the entry visas.

Craig as the fighter, and Oron as his trainer, were able to travel to Vietnam courtesy of the Thai Fight promoters. As getting so many people to Vietnam was quite a big logistical and expensive effort, Craig and Oron had to travel overnight.  The rest of the team including myself, Riah as the Operations Manager, and Mike as the Marketing Director allowed ourselves the luxury of travelling during more sociable hours.

It was a relatively easy trip getting from Phuket to Ho Chi Minh City (once known as Saigon). We went via Air Asia and although we had to change flights in Bangkok, the journey was trouble free and both flights were punctual.  Getting in to Vietnam involves preparation as a visa is required and this has to be pre-arranged before travel. If this is not done, then Air Asia will not allow you to board the flight.

The hotel that Thai Fight provided (Cosmopolitan Hotel) was clean, comfortable and the staff were extremely helpful. It was centrally located very near to District 1, great for sightseeing, shopping and . Overall throughout the trip Thai Fight looked after us very well.  Food was provided for the whole weekend as well as transport. There was a welcoming party at the airport for the fighters and motorcade to move the fight teams quickly through the congested city traffic.

In general, the experience for everyone in Ho Chi Minh City was a very positive one.  Surprisingly, English is widely spoken.  It’s a clean city with lots of parks and many interesting things to see.  The food was excellent and varied with an obvious French colonial influence. The Vietnamese were excellent hosts for the Thai Fight event.  The venue, a sports stadium, was large, indoors and air conditioned.  Impressive to say the least.

Everybody who participated in the event gained enormously. Oron got to socialize with lots of his old contemporaries and network widely, Mike had excellent opportunities for exercising his photographic skills both with the local sights and the many Muay Thai superstars at the event. Riah and I had the chance to experience a beautiful city and all it has to offer.  The event itself was magnificent.  There is always an air of excitement with so many superstars around.

Of course the person who gained most was Craig himself. He lost the fight but he was given an opportunity very few Farang fighters will ever get. The mental preparation beforehand in itself will have matured Craig as a fighter.  We congratulate him in getting as far as he has in a relatively short period of time. Already he has given us many opportunities to broaden our experience of the world and of Muay Thai. It has been an exciting time and we all anxiously await our next journey. Sumalee Boxing Gym is proud to sponsor one of Scotland’s finest nak muay.

By Dr Lynne Miller

Check out all the photos from the event on our Facebook Page and Instagram profile.

Two wins for Sumalee at the Z1 Chief Ministers Cup!

In Muay Thai, we often deal with situations where it is not always clear what the motives are. It is therefore refreshing to work with the organisers of the Z1 event in Malaysia. It is crystal clear that they have the genuine and primary goal of promoting the art of Muay Thai in Malaysia. They host well managed events in accordance with this. The Z1 crew worked professionally and cohesively, putting on shows to at least equal any of the biggest name productions in Thailand.

As fighters, Jordan Coe and I felt at ease at the recent Z1 Chief Minister’s Cup in Kedah, a northerly province in Malaysia. After a long drive our mood was enhanced by the sightseeing, which promoted a sense of familiarity.  Overall there was a general surplus of good vibes: people enjoying the process. 

A Catch-22 exists in fighting. One victory, despite its sweetness, only leads to the next challenge. This is inevitable as the desire to progress is ever present.  An individual experience is not enough.  It can never be ‘that one time…’.  With Muay Thai, one win is not enough.  Every fight presents an opportunity to reappraise whilst stimulating a desire to delve deeper, to attain more in a skill, the horizons of which are almost limitless.

On most trips these days we are accompanied by our media team whose creative capacity expands as its skill grows. The trick is combining skill with the imagination – pursuit of the fresh idea. Of course the Thai trainers are always there and their influence is pervasive. We influence them too, for they too are learning…learning how to teach. Together as a group, the Sumalee team we are building something others wish to be a part of.

Our success stems from a positive mental attitude, being part of a team and considering others as well as the search for new experience and achievement. Working hard helps to maintain us, to overcome the heartaches and pain we share. As we mature as a group, we rely upon the friendships and memories we gather together in the wake of the pursuit of success.  Our progress is only limited by our own efforts.  We all have a desire to create something we can be proud of. 

Rehearsals began on the Friday. We arrived at the stadium where members of the Kedah Riders Club were revving their engines and the Z1 team were in full swing, prepping the stage, lights, and sound. We had heard that our entrances would be something special but this was truly unique. Jordan was allocated a BMW touring bike whilst I, to my extreme pleasure, hopped on the back of a huge Harley Davidson. I goaded the driver into revving his engines as much as possible, after all, we want to make an impression don’t we?

The first leg of the two day event saw some local competitors take to the stage, as well as one Australian fighter from Lamai Muay Thai. Though it was a slightly more sombre affair than the Thai’s (mostly due to the lack of betting), the fights were anything but sombre. Every match that evening was ended by knockout and served as a good precursor for the main event.

Saturday night arrived. Both Jordan and I felt well rested after a couple of decent nights sleep in our compact, but comfortable hotel room. There was a considerable buzz about the stadium as we made our way to the changing rooms, stopping for a few selfies with some fans along the way. The arrival of Jom Kitti (a Thai trainer at Muay Thai Fitness Lab in KL) and his family was a welcome sight and bolstered our confidence.

Jordan Coe led the charge in a heated battle with Qualid Saripan from White Tiger Gym. His eccentric demeanour in the last couple of days was amusing, but did make us ponder what he would be like once he got in the ring. As expected he made good use of the home support, the Malays giving a hearty cheer with every punch he landed. Unfortunately cheers do not win fights. Jordan’s prized left leg went to work as he unleashed kick after kick and racked up the points. Having worked closely with Oron (Head Trainer) since arriving a couple of months ago, the improvement to his overall technique was evident. Qualid showed frustration after some well timed sweeps from Jordan and got a few cheap shots in where he could. This only served to infuriate my Scottish counterpart, and he finished his match in round 4 with a swift knee to the stomach.

After belts were handed out to the winners of the the 4 man tournaments a hush fell across the stadium as they announced the main event. My opponent, Bow Suweilek, was Thai but had lived in Malaysia for many years and was a firm fan favourite. As I jaunted around the ring in typical Sumalee style, he joined me for a little dance and we put on a show for the audience, though I locked eyes with him throughout to make my intentions clear…this was a fight. Bow was pretty static in the early rounds. No doubt he had watched some of my fights and, knowing my boxing was strong, had prepared a suitable defence. He kept his back to the ropes and lunged forward with counter attacks to varying degrees of success as I let my front kick do the work- a new favourite in my arsenal. Sensing an opening in round 3 I let a kick fly in the direction of his head and…success! The sound of shin clashing with skull was followed by Bow falling to the canvas, gasps of disbelief from the audience, and screams of jubilance from my own corner.

Team Sumalee had emerged victorious once again, and with every victory I get the sense that this is just the beginning of something greater. These days I do wear a watch, but you’ll never catch me with a mobile in my hand because around here it’s all work and no play, innit? “I’ll have just one more fight, and then go home…”

Written by Craig Dickson
Photography by Mike Davis

You can check out all the photos of the event from Sumalee Media on the Sumalee Facebook Page, and like Z1 International on Facebook to see the fight videos coming soon. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@sumaleeboxing) and Instagram for highlights of all our fights and regular updates.