Lee Gar 35 Year Anniversary Show Keeps to Tradition & Proves NZ Strength
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For 35 years NZ's very own father of Muay Thai, Phillip Lam, has been training young fighters, promoting Thai Boxing, and showcasing the best fighting talent around in authentically Thai style. With the Pi Kaek (Javanese Clarinet that accompanies Thai Boxing fights) wailing eerily over the speakers, NZ fighter leaped into the ring against an Australian contingent in full garlanded regalia. Giving teachers and trainers alike their due, the most respectful of the fighters went on to treat the crowd, their opponents and even Mayor John Banks - who was in attendance - to elaborate Wai Khru Ram Muay rituals.
Circumnavigating the ring and kneeling to bow to both gods and men, NZ fighters in two of the title fights then performed their own personalised 'dance', demonstrating their fighting prowess to all. Whether or not this initial display of skill and piety rattled the Trans-Tasman side is debatable, but the skill and power shown in the ring is definitely not. And despite strongly fought bouts against the locals, the Australians from Fite N Fitness Gym (near Sydney) went home beltless; with the mournful sound of the Pi Kaek ringing in their ears.
Beginning with four bouts between high quality undercard fighters, the show took a different turn as Mayor John Banks made a presentation to Phillip Lam then helped daub the feet of a large orange Chinese dragon with auspicious red paint. An interestingly authentic dance performance followed as the dragon shimmied and shucked around a cluster of mandarins and a lettuce; eventually swallowing them all then spitting the rinds back out on to the canvas with a silent roar.
In the wake of such a performance, it may have been a hard task to surprise and excite the crowd, but surprises and excitement there was - beginning with the HKMTA South Pacific Super Welterweight Title (Amateur) between Harley "Lethal" Love (City LeeGar) and Australian Paul Hope. Some aggressive aerial attacks by Love, and a constant flow of blows, sealed the fate of the Australian after going the full five rounds. The next match-up was another international affair, this time between veteran fighter Daniel Tai (Tai Brothers Gym) and Frenchman Saulaimaine Konate in a K1 rules professional super heavyweight excursion that started slowly and ponderously, but changed gear in the second round and brought the final round to a close on a wave of cheers and high kicks by the big men. Konate won unanimously.
The last three fights were the pick of the night as firstly the NZ WKBF Light Heavyweight Title (Amateur) was contested by Ben Davis (SMAC Gym) and Israel Adesanya (City Kickboxing) in a high energy bout that began with the fluid elaborateness of Adesanya's Wai Khru ritual, and a knock down out of the corner, and ended with a TKO decision in favour of Adesanya. Next up, Slava Alexichik (City LeeGar) tangled with Australia's Mitch Langley for the HKMTA South Pacific Super Middleweight Title (professional) in a bloody battle that went to Alexichik on a TKO decision in round one. A flying elbow from the New Zealander split Langley's head and ended the fight in a veil of blood and curses from the disappointed Australian who, despite wearing a singlet of blood and leaking copiously, was still rearing to go.
Wrapping up the night's entertainment was the main event between City Lee Gar's Steve "Pound U" Hahm and Mat Cashmore (Australia) in an HKMTA South Pacific Welterweight Title fight (professional) that went the distance, and left a unanimous decision in Hahm's corner. One of NZ's top fighters, Hahm, was technical, swift and powerful as he battered the equally skilled, though less experienced, Cashmore in an energetic five round match that left spectators hankering for more.
We can only hope that Phillip Lam Promotions and the LeeGar Thai Boxing gyms continue to bring such quality for another 35 years.
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