Interview with Daniel Hatch
A former New Zealand champion that has fought for his country as far afield as England, and as close to home as Australia, Daniel 'Hitman' Hatch has been involved in Thai Boxing for almost 18 years. And is still a major force in the sport - these days as one of the sought-after trainers at City Lee Gar Gym in Auckland.
It is a widely-held belief that fighting is in the blood, and it appears to hold true for Hatch. Still involved, and still loving it, he's also doing his bit to promote and develop the best fighters, in one of the most exciting ring sports in New Zealand. Daniel 'Hitman' Hatch speaks to NZFighters about his background, his fighting career, and his current incarnation as a well-respected trainer in the country's oldest, and longest-running Thai Boxing gym:
NZF: Hi Dan, please tell us a bit about your background before training and fighting for Lee Gar?
DH: I was 15 when I started training and fighting. Prior to this, I had no other background in martial arts. I started training at SMAC with Brett D'Arth for my first five years, then went to City Lee Gar with Sifu Phillip Lam.
NZF: Why and when did you start training?
DH: I was just an average teenager, going to school and playing sports like football(soccer), rugby and league. I stopped doing that for about a year, then started thinking about another sport I could do. I wasn't living in a very good neighbourhood, and I thought I would do a bit of self-defence and fitness at the same time, so I started Thai Boxing. I enjoyed it so much that after a few months I started looking at training for a fight. I got offered a fight, and it was all on from there. I got offered a trip to China in 1998 with Sifu (Phillip Lam) and the boys at Lee Gar, which I took, and carried on training at City Lee Gar after that.
NZF: When was your first fight, and what was it like getting into the ring for the first time?
DH: I was 15 when I had my first fight, and I fought someone from City Lee Gar; it's a long time ago now - about 18 years. It was only a few months after I had started training, and I was nervous as hell. At that time, it felt like the hardest and most intense training I had ever done. I won that fight on points, and I was on cloud nine for about three weeks after that. I had a couple of injuries, but most of all I couldn't wait to get back in the ring.
NZF: What's your current record? (Including titles)
DH: I've had over 30 fights - both professional and amateur - and won about four titles: the North Island champion a couple of times, NZ champ and South Pacific champ. I've been lucky enough to travel around the world as a fighter, and now as a trainer.
NZF: What has been your career highlight so far?
DH: Career highlight hmmm......there has been quite a few of them, there's not really just one moment that sticks out. My highlights have been fighting here representing NZ, and training and fighting overseas in places like China, Hong Kong, Australia, England, Japan, Thailand and Saipan. Now, as a trainer, it's training the boys in the gym, either for their first-ever fight; for a title fight; for an international fight; or a professional fight - which has included training people in Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand. Also, taking fighters over to Aussie to fight as a trainer and, most recently, cornering Steve Hahm at Ratchadamnern stadium in Bangkok.
NZF: What experience have you had of fighting and training in Thailand, and what is it like to represent NZ on the international fight stage?
DH: I haven't fought in Thailand, but I've trained there a lot of times. It's good that you can go there and just train; just leave everything behind in NZ and be there solely to train. It's like going over there and starting another job, as you train for eight hours a day. You can dedicate yourself to Muay Thai, and prepare for a fight. It's exciting [representing NZ on the international stage] and you're always nervous before a fight, no matter who or where you're fighting. You feel a sense of pride in representing your country, and you try and put on a good show for your country..
NZF: What would a typical fight training day look like for you?
DH: Preparing the boys at the moment, an average day - a pad day for example - will start with the boys going for a run for at least half an hour. When they get back to the gym they will have a stretch to loosen up, then they shadow box for three to five rounds. Once they have finished the shadow boxing, I'll get one of the boys at a time on pads for three to six rounds. Preparing the boys for a fight comes down to who they're fighting and what they need to work on. If we know anything about the opponent, we'll work on their weaknesses and consider their general style. After their pad work they will do a few more rounds on the bag. Sometimes we will work on technique (shin pads and gloves on, like sparring), but lightly, so no one gets injured. Then the boys will do about 20-40 minutes knee sparring, and finish up with some stretches.
NZF: How high do you rate sparring as a training technique?
DH: I think sparring is really important. It's not like Thailand here, because the fighters aren't getting fights every month, or every couple of weeks. There are a few fighters that do fight regularly, but I think you still need sparring here because fights can be few and far between. Depending on what level a fighter gets to, it can be even longer between fights, so sparring can become important for these fighters. You can also work on techniques, or try something new without the risk of too much injury. We do sparring two nights a week, combined with bag and pad work.
NZF: What makes a great fighter?
DH: A big heart and big ears: someone with ears that listens. Both are very important.
NZF: What is different about Lee Gar gym?
DH: We've got a long history. Sifu Phillip Lam brought Muay Thai to NZ over 35 years ago, so we are the oldest and longest-running gym in the country. A lot of great fighters, and a lot of great trainers, have come out of our gym, or been tied back to our gym. Every gym's different, and all have their own strengths and weaknesses. We've had a heavy Thai influence in our gym: even now, we haven't had a Thai [person] in the gym for eight years, but we still produce fighters that fight like Thai's.
NZF: Any advice for the young people who want to start training and step into a ring?
DH: Give it a go. If you enjoy it, see where you can go with it.
I'd also like to give a shout out/plug for my work....I'd like to say a hi to Tony and Brett at NZ Boxer. For all your training and fight needs, come and see us at 65 Hillside Rd, Glenfield on the North Shore.