The final day of fights at the IFMA MuayThai world championships certainly lived up to the billing, with high-intensity fights taking place all day.
One ring stood alone in the centre of stadium, spot-lit to allow everyone to focus on the best fighters of the tournament. Spectators gathered from before 11am, bringing flags, whistles and banners in their national colours. Streaming along both sides of the stadium around the ring, the noise level intensified as the fighters began to appear.
Medals were given out in another spot-lit area, the final culmination of months and years of hard work and sacrifce by these male and female athletes. And their coaches and families too of course, who remain out of the spotlight.
Opening the senior women’s bouts were Belarussian fighter Alina Liashkevich and Thailand’s Suphrisa Konlak at 45kgs. Belarus took the gold in a furious battle, both women evenly matched especially in the grapple but Alina driving forward more with powerful body-kicks and some speedy hand combinations.
Next up was 48kgs Canada Maggie Tucker vs Tessa Kakkonen from Finland, and while Maggie more than held her own Tessa edged out the winner on points.
The 51kgs female bout was between Mireim El Moubarik from Moroccco and Ly Bui Yen from Vietnam. Another close fight Ly worked hard on leg-kicks but Miriem’s strong right hand, and left body-hooks did too much damage and she took the win on points.
First into the ring for the men was Thailand’s Thiwakorn Chubthumit taking on Kazakh boxer Yelaman Sayassatov. Both went in hard on the grapple from the opening blow, with Thailand eventually taking the gold on points.
The 51kgs bout between Russia’s Rcikhimov Kholmurod and Thai boxer Arnon Phronkrthok went to Thailand on walkover.
Fight eight was again Thailand represented by Pranom Seung-Negeon taking on Illyas Mussen from Kazakstan. First round was all about Thailand and Pranom never really let up, taking a solid points win.
The home crowd really lifted the roof for Sweden’s Sofia Olofsson in the ring against Russia’s Natalia Diachkova. This was a great fight between two agressive and skilful boxers, with Sofia really driving home her fast hand combinations from the first bell. Natalia seemed more comfortable in the grapple, but Sweden took the bout on points in the end.
Thailand’s Wiwat Khamtha was up next at 57kgs against Ukraine’s Trishyn Kostiantyn. A really exciting bout, Wiwat fought a slow steady battle coping well with the swift barrage of punches coming at him. Landing a few clean elbow shots, he took the bout on points and celebrated in the ring with the Thai flag.
Sweden stepped up again in the women’s 57kgs with Patricia Axling against Russia’s Julia Berezikava. Ahead by one point after the second round, she maintained that close edge to take the gold medal.
At 60kgs, Ukraine’s Vasylioglo Mykhalio took on Thai fighter Ruthaiphan Sapmanee in a great fight. Vasylioglo landed a beautiful clean teep-kick to the head in the 3rd round, but Thailand took the bout eventually on points for an incredile accurate work-rate.
Israel was in the ring for the women’s 60kgs fight taking on Ukraine’s Lryna Chernave. Nili Block landed some exciting head-kicks, and really worked her punch combinations as Ukraine fought back hard into the grapple. Israel took the gold, and in a touching moment received a hug from the opposing Ukraine coach.
Peru’s Antoninia Shevchenko 63.5kgs had a surprise walkover victory when her Russian opponent Svetlana Vinnikova could not fight.
Bout 15 saw Bediha Tachyildiz from Turkey taking on another Swedish female fighter Beata Malecki at 67kgs in a really exciting fight ending in a technical knock-out for Sweden from punch-elbow combination.
In the next fight Ukraine’s Igor Liubchencko 63.5kgs fought Vladimir Kuzmin from Russia, with Ukraine taking the gold after some huge left-hands and poweful leg-kicks. He didn’t have things all his own way with Vladimir working a strong teep-kick to good effect.
Thailand and Russia faced off again in bout 17 with Magomed Zaynkuv fighting Yuttaphong Sittichot in a fast fight. The Russian boy came out fast firing in leg-kicks and taking Yuttaphong down, dealing with a flurry of strong left elbows from Yuttaphong. Ahead by two points after the 2nd round, he survived some sweeping elblows against the ropes in the third to take the gold medal.
Next up was Thailand’s Suppachai Meunsang against Canada’s Sean Kearney in an eagerly awaited bout at 71kgs. The Canadian started slowly, working long knees to keep out of elbow range with Suppachai picking up the pace using head-kicks and a poweful teep-kick to the body. Sean drove in hard in the second but Suppachai defending and coming back hard. A close fight it went to Thailand on points difference.
Bout 19 was another battle between Russia and Sweden in the women’s division 71kgs. Anna Strandberg flew the local colours taking on Anna Tarasava, both women throwing strong leg-kicks and driving home for the points. The gold went to Sweden in the end after a close fight.
Next up at 75kgs was Belarus boxer Vitaly Hurkou against Thailand’s Ekkaphan Somboonsab at 75kgs. This was an absolute war with both men driving in hard with elbows and body-kicks from the first bell. The ropes shook with the force of their clinches in the corner, with the Belarusan fighter striking hard with big right-hands. In spite of a furious effort from Thailand in the 3rd, Belarus took the gold.
The women’s 75kgs between Australia’s Anita Boom and Sweden’s Angela Mamic was a crowd favourite, with the women trading punches in the centre of the ring during the 2nd round. Sweden took a count in the 3rd, and Australia took the gold overall.
Fight 22 saw Russia’s Surik Magakian taking on Belarus’s Dzimitry Valent at 81kgs. The Russian boy concentrated on long knees followed with sweeping elbows with Belarus marching forward on strong right-hands, and leg-kicks. Dzimitry used some lovely clinch-and-throw technigues to get ahead on points, taking the gold.
Three more fights to go, and the stadium was rocking now with lights and music playing. Some chant-wars were breaking out between supporters along the way!
The 23rd bout was Anatoly Vanakov from Belarus against Petrosiau Armen from Russia at 86kgs. Again a toe-to-toe effort from these boxers, with right-hands going into against the helmets and into the body at a great rate. Belarus took it on points.
Fight 24 was a walkover victory for Ukraine’s Oleh Pryimachov when Belarus boy Dzianis Hancharanok did not fight at 91kgs.
The final fight of a long and exciting day was between UKraine’s Rogava Tstotne and Belarus’s Andrei Herasimchuk at 91+ And what a way to finish with both boys throwing huge punchs in the search for points, following up with swift leg-kicks. Gold went to Belarus.
Along the way, there were presentations and speeches from various people crucial to Muaythai and to Muaythai in Sweden in particular. The father of Swedish Muaythai Kirster Berginhal addressed the crowd, an inspiration to young boxers the man who founded the first Muaythai gym in Sweden in 1979 is incredibly still active in training. The memory of champion Martin Holm was also honoured; a tribute was given to him and his former trainer Po Lindvall delivered a touching speech.
Gifts were given to Thai dignataries and of course to the Mayor of host town Jonkoping.
Fights over, the boxers flooded the podium stand for photographs of their teams, and grabbed selfies with their favourite boxers.
Hard to believe it was all over. Even though today was all about medals and contests, the real winners are the people who grow in the spirit of Muaythai and friendship which was fostered right throughout the tournament.