A Fighter’s Life - Joe Le Maire’s diary from Thailand

Joe Le Maire performs the Wai Khru before his fight at the Sai Nam Yen Stadium. Photo: Gunn Taylor/S

Joe Le Maire performs the Wai Khru before his fight at the Sai Nam Yen Stadium. Photo: Gunn Taylor/Sumalee Boxing Gym - Credit: Archant

Suffolk's Joe Le Maire is one of the best young Thai Boxers in England. For the next year, he'll be living and fighting in Thailand, the home of the sport, and every month he'll be writing a diary about his experiences. Here, in his first piece, he talks about settling in to life in Phuket.

Joe Le Maire, left, celebrates his victory in Thailand with trainer Lib. Photo: Gunn Taylor/Sumalee

Joe Le Maire, left, celebrates his victory in Thailand with trainer Lib. Photo: Gunn Taylor/Sumalee Boxing Gym - Credit: Archant

First of all, welcome to my monthly diary! I'm out here living and training at the Sumalee Boxing Gym in Phuket, where I'll be spending the next year as professional fighter under a scholarship from the gym.

Where to start? Well, I've been out in Phuket for just over a month now, and I'm settling in more quickly than I thought I would.

It's obviously a big step for me, as an 18-year-old, to take the plunge of moving to a foreign country for a year. I don't speak the language (yet) and although I already knew a lot of the staff out here, it's hugely different from being at home.

It was great to have my parents, Sally and Richard, out here with me for the first three weeks, and I've also been lucky that Matthew Butcher, who I used to train with at Unit One Gym back in Bury St Edmunds, has also been out here for the last few weeks, training and living alongside me.

But I get on really well with all the people here, all the staff and trainers, and it's made settling in much easier than I feared it might be.

I'm taking lessons in the Thai language for two hours, twice a week, and I'm starting to pick bits up. Once you get your head round the basics and the order of it, it's not as hard as it might sound!

Joe Le Maire, right, in action in Thailand. Photo: Gunn Taylor/Sumalee Boxing Gym

Joe Le Maire, right, in action in Thailand. Photo: Gunn Taylor/Sumalee Boxing Gym - Credit: Archant

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Of course, the main reason I'm out here is to train and fight, and that's how I spend most of my time. A typical day is getting up at 7am and going for a run - between 6 and 10k – before morning training, which is a mixture of shadow boxing, pads, bag work, weights and stretching.

We finish that up about 9am and grab breakfast - I usuallly have porridge and berries - and after that I either go to school to learn Thai or do some strength and conditioning.

I've got a programme from Don Heatrick, one of my coaches back home, which I do twice a week, to help me get stronger.

Then afternoon training starts at 4pm with another run, this time around 3k, before a mix of shadow boxing, sparring and pads.

It's quite difficult physically - especially in the heat - and I've had a bunch of bruises and blisters on my feet, but not as bad as it could have been!

Food-wise, I usually buy some traditional chicken and rice from a street vendor for lunch, and then have a choice of things at the gym for dinner, where I often go for the curry! I'm on a meal plan as part of my training, which makes it much easier for me.

Now, a lot of people warn you about the dangers of food poisoning over here, but I've not had any issues so far - fingers crossed that continues!

Time to talk about fighting, the fun stuff. I've already had two fights for Sumalee since arriving, winning one and losing one.

The main difference over here to fighting back home is the carefree attitude to matching fighters. A couple of the stadiums in Phuket don't do weigh ins, it's all done by eye.

So a lot of gyms lie about their fighter's weight and experience, which makes it a bit of a lottery getting matched up.

For my first fight out here at the Bangla Stadium, I fought a guy who must have been 10kgs heavier than me (I fight at 50kg) and that makes a big difference.

Unfortunately I lost that one, but it's all a learning experience. I got back in the gym with my main trainer Lib and we've been working on changing my style.

I've improved a lot since being out here, I've changed up my defensive technique and I'm more attacking - before I was kicking but not defending, Lib's helped me to make changes so I can kick and check kicks back a bit easier.

My second fight was just last week at Sai Nam Yen Stadium. Again, I got matched with a fighter who was much bigger than me and my trainers rejected the fight. Luckily, we managed to find a 49kgs Thai who had lots of fights and I matched up with him.

He was still a bit taller than me, but the fight went really well. I was kicking well, and scoring in the clinch.

In the third round I managed to land a few knees in the clinch and he dropped to the canvas. It soon became clear that he wasn't going to get up, and I had my hand raised, which was a great feeling.

He had a lot more experience than I had, so it was a really good test and a great win. Of course, I have to say a huge thank you to my trainers, my family and my friends for all their support.

Next up is another fight at Bangla on September 9. This is a big one for me, it's a bigger show so there will be proper weigh-ins and I'll get a fair fight - which is great as there will be scouts from Bangkok there.

If I do well and get spotted, I could even end up fighting at one of the legendary stadiums in the capital - Lumpinee Stadium is the top one, it's like Muay Thai's Wembley Stadium. Fighting there would be a dream come true.

Right, I'd better go - another long day of training tomorrow! I'll be back in a month, hopefully with news of a big win!

In the meantime, you can follow my story on Facebook on my athlete page at Joeyboy 'Sumalee' Le Maire and on Twitter at @joelemaire2. Feel free to get in touch!

You can also follow my gym at www.sumaleeboxinggym.com, on Twitter @sumaleeboxing and on Facebook at sumaleeboxinggym.



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