Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peninju Israel ke Malaysia - AXN Muay Thai

Kenyataan peninju Israel mengenai kerjasama Menteri Belia Dan Sukan Malaysia.

Petikan daripada

The Challenger Muaythai blog - Ilya Grad

by Ilya Grad
Israel's citizens are not allowed to enter Malaysia; I knew it as a fact! So when I was called for The Challenger, naturally I got a bit doubtful, but I was assured that some influential people in Malaysia had my back and would do everything in their powers to get me in. Although some friends and loved ones were concerned and even urged me not to go, the thought I might just be the first to ever raise the Israeli flag in Malaysia was an idea I couldn't resist. Not to mention the fact I would meet the best Muaythai fighters in the world to share my experience with. 

Tickets were booked and I left Thailand praying for a smooth pass through Malaysian border, but once upon arrival I was stopped and told I had to spend the night at the terminal. After a long wait of 25 hours the Malaysian Muaythai Federation, with the support of the Malaysian sports minister finally made it happen and got the necessary papers to let me in the country. Just like that I crossed the border with a special pass, a very special pass indeed for my Israeli passport wasn't even stamped! 

I was in the house with the big boys. The best middleweight fighters from all over the world came to participate in the show, eating and training with Muaythai legends like Fadi Merza and Cedric Muller who have done so much in this sport. I was inspired and I ready to play!

I shared a room with Antoine Pinto who I knew well before and Malaysian champ Faizal. We all got along really well and even started helping each other during training. Both Antoine and I wanted to fight different opponents for the first round, but we also knew we might be chosen as the fighter with the deadliest knee in the house and face each other in the ring. And so, the prophecy fulfilled itself; the fighters chose Antoine and the trainers chose me. It was time to figure out the right strategy for the fight and let it all out in the ring.

Antoine, living and fighting in Thailand for 10 years has a lot of experience. He also has a Thai style in the ring and mostly uses kicking and clinching to win his fights. I didn't want play the kicking game with him; would be hard to beat him in his own game, so I thought my game plan would be to avoid and counter his kicks and knees and to be the aggressor with my punches and elbows (which are easier to land on a "Thai fighter") and basically move forward with power shots to afflict as much damage to shake down his confidence and control the game. My trainers told me: "you play his game, you lose. You must take control of the fight.”

The official weigh in was -- Antoine at 75kg and me at 74kg (not 77kg as someone said here).

Before the fight another issue came up, I was told that I cannot come up to the ring with the Israeli flag, political issues. They told me I have to pick another country to fight for. It was absurd, I argued and told the production that if they hang up any other flag I would not fight, plain and simple. 

As I came into the stadium the local crowd was booing me (maybe something to do with the flag I was waving), I shook it off with a smile and entered the ring. As Antoine entered after me, the entire stadium supported him with cheer. I used it to my advantage as he overconfidently came forward, I threw an upper elbow to meet his movement and cut him over the eyebrow. As I saw the blood pouring down his face I rushed forward and in the clinch I used big elbows and saw a big lump growing slowly over his forehead. The round was totally mine and my strategy proved to be effective.

For the rest of the fight I claimed the center of the ring and Antoine was mostly on the ropes, working the middle kicks.

The fight was close, but not hard. I was never physically hurt, I never lost my power and I was never on the ropes on the defensive side. I felt in control throughout the entire match.

Some people in the house (who never saw me fighting before), took me as the underdog before the match. But it didn't bother me much, on the contrary I think it only motivated me more to show my best and clear any doubt I belong on that line of world class fighters. I remember staring at some people between the rounds, smiling as saying " so, what do you think about me now?"

By the end of the 4th round my corner, (which was all Thai people) told me I was winning the fight, that I only need to kick and move in the 5th to win. When I came back after the round my corner told me I won 3 rounds and Antoine won 2, we waited for the announcement... The judges scored the fight in a split decision, 2 for Antoine and one for me, interestingly enough though; the only judge who scored the fight to me was from Thailand. A local judge gave all the rounds to Antoine…enough said?

I left Malaysia with mix emotions, I was proud of my fight but disappointed with the decision. The reaction of the local crowd and judges was simply bias but on the other hand, right after the fight many local faces approached me to congratulate and apologize. Many said I have won, and some still write to me today. I'm proud to say that I made some good friends with the locals, including Malay champ Faizal. 

With the support of Malaysian ministers, we made an exceptional achievement to let an Israeli athlete fight in Malaysia holding the Israeli flag. It takes us one step forward to live in peace as a species and proves Malaysia to be a civilized and modern society!
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