By Helen Lam
In the heart of Little Italy, Wreck MMA held an amateur Thai boxing night at St. Anthony’s Banquet Hall on June 2. Wreck MMA assembled a fight card of 13 bouts, featuring main and co-main events as well as a strong undercard. Experienced amateurs from gyms across Southern Ontario convened in an exhibition of regional talent. As the evening went on, it was a pleasure to watch the well-matched fighters test themselves in furious displays of spirit and skill.
The venue was simple and spartan, save for a glimmering chandelier hanging in the centre of the hall. That night, under its illumination, a Thai boxing ring sat thronged by a full house of spectators. Fighters milled about on the balcony above the main floor, keeping warm until the final moments before their descent into ring.
Amateur athletes don’t fight for money. Instead their ultimate prize is self-knowledge and a little bit of genuine, dazzling glory. If one day they move up into the professional ranks they will perform on a bigger stage. But at the amateur levels is where they first test their hearts and bodies, and forge a will to win.
Muay Thai fighters are notoriously efficient and elegant strikers, perfecting their arsenal of punches, kicks, clinchwork and sweeps. For each bout, a fighter and coach must work together to negotiate their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses in an effort to outscore them. No one opponent is exactly like another. And not unlike a blind date, each pairing has its own chemistry.
By the end of the night, the fight card delivered two referee stoppages by technical knock-out, one title defense and uproarious co-main and main events.
Vince Veyes Germain retained his belt as the Muay Thai Ontario 189-pound Provincial Champion against Jessie Cronier. During the fight, both men traded heavy punches and weathered thunderous kicks. They drove each other in ropes continuously, seeking to do damage in the clinch. Veyes Germain began to get the better of the exchanges, scoring with several knees and elbows in the second round. As the fight wore on, the damage done was enough to secure a TKO and a successful title defense.
The co-main event featured a standoff between decorated competitors Taylor McClatchie and Candice Mitchell. Both women are already amateur title holders, with McClatchie capturing the Muay Thai Ontario 122-pound Provincial Championship in 2016. It was a fast-paced, high-volume affair as the women unleashed, criss-crossing the ring several times. The boxers stood their ground until the end, when McClatchie took the win by split decision.
The main event featured veteran boxers Jeff Harrison and Stephan Lamarche. Harrison pushed the pace for the first two rounds, provoking rapid exchanges that showcased the accuracy and power of both men. At the start of the third round Lamarche wobbled Harrison with a furious elbow and then knocked him to the ground with a quick right cross. As the crowd roared in excitement, the referee stopped the fight, giving Lamarche the victory by TKO.
The floor was packed with fight fans and supporters from several local gyms. They called out from the floor, arms flung high and voices hoarse from shouting the names of their friends and training partners. Every blow landed and sweep executed triggered a spontaneous outpour of appreciation. The connection between the athlete and the audience is electric in amateur sports, creating an experience that is truly of the moment.
In fighting, as in life, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But after their time in the ring, all fighters returned to the floor and then merged into the crowd once more, embracing and embraced.