Flying Knee column: Bury Thai boxer Joe Le Maire heading to Thailand for a year

Joe Le Maire with some of his many title belts

Joe Le Maire with some of his many title belts - Credit: Gregg Brown

I don’t know about you, but when I was 18, I was worrying about A-levels, discovering booze and wondering what I might do with my life.

Joe Le Maire with some of his many title belts

Joe Le Maire with some of his many title belts - Credit: Gregg Brown

Not so for promising Bury Thai boxer Joe Le Maire – he knows exactly what he wants, and booze won’t help him get there!

Instead, he’s about to jet off to Thailand for a year, where he’ll be training and fighting for Sumalee Boxing Gym in Phuket, who have given him a 12-month scholarship.

Le Maire wants to be a Muay Thai world champion and knows that taking the huge step of leaving his family and friends behind to live the life of a professional fighter in the home of the sport is an incredible opportunity.

He told me: “My main aim is to become world champion one day.

“I believe that moving to Thailand at this time to learn from Thai’s who have had over 300 fights each is the perfect move.

“I will be able to learn so much and gain a lot more experience from fighting on a regular basis as there are no shortage of opponents at 48kg.

Le Maire, right, in action in Thailand

Le Maire, right, in action in Thailand - Credit: Archant

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“I aim to fight in some of the top stadiums in Bangkok like Lumpinee and Rajadamnarn as well as on shows like Muay Thai Grand Prix, Yokkao and The Main event in the UK.”

Le Maire, who has been training at Bury’s Unit 1 Gym for eight years, is one of the country’s premier young talents.

He’s already amassed a staggering 62 fights (36-24-2) and has won three British junior titles – including the famed WBC green belt – as well as two silver medals at the World Championships.

He’s already fought twice for Sumalee in Thailand, winning both, on previous training trips to the country.

But now he’ll be training full-time, in searing heat, while staying in a house next to the gym and adhering to a strict nutrition plan.

“The training regime will consist of running, pad work, bag work, clinching and sparring, six days a week, with Sunday as a rest day,” he explained.

“I will also be doing strength and conditioning to help me improve my performance.

“I’m hoping to fight as much as I can so I am able to get as much experience as possible.

“Ideally I would like to fight every 3-4 weeks, as long as I don’t get too injured from the previous fight!”

Of the move itself, he added: “The first few weeks will be will be the hardest as it will be a culture shock but I’m sure I will get used to it.

“I will be going to school once or twice every week to learn Thai.

“I would like to thank Sumalee Boxing Gym for the massive opportunity they have given me.

“I couldn’t have done this without all of the support from friends, family, everyone at Unit 1 Gym and my sponsors, Helmsman Lockers, Heatrick Strength and Conditioning and Wellnesstore.”

I’ve been training with Joe for years, and you could not hope to meet a nicer, more humble young man.

He deserves every success.

- You can follow his journey on Twitter @JoeLeMaire2, and I’ll also be having regular catch-ups with him throughout his year in Thailand.

I was wrong – and I’ve never been happier to be so!

In last month’s column I dismissed Michael Bisping’s chances of becoming the first British UFC champion ahead of his clash with middleweight ruler Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.

Indeed, I said Bisping lacked the power to make Rockhold respect him.

I could not have been more wrong. Rockhold came out clearly overconfident and frankly dismissive, taking the unusual approach of sticking his chin in the air and dropping his hands frequently. He obviously expected to walk through Bisping.

But as it was, he simply walked on to a rapier left hand counter which buzzed him badly and sent him to the mat. He rose, only to be dropped again by another left, and Bisping pinned him against the fence before separating him from his senses in what must have been deeply-satisfying fashion as the ref stopped the fight.

The former slaughter-house worker from Clitheroe duly made history as Britain’s first-ever UFC champ.

He is one of the sport’s good guys, and it’s fantastic to see him realise a lifelong dream, years after he gave up work and often slept in his car while trying to make his name in what was then a fledgling sport, with little or no money involved.

Well done Mike – you’ve made your country proud!

Another of our region’s fighters gets a chance on the big stage at the O2 Arena this weekend.

Jack Mason, who fights out of BKK Fighters in Colchester, faces fellow Brit Jason Radcliffe at Bellator 158 on July 16.

Mason (29-15-1) is a veteran of the sport and finally gets a much deserved chance with one of the biggest MMA promotions in the world.

It’s Bellator’s first big show in the UK, headlined by top British fighters Paul Daley and Michael Page.

Middleweight Mason will have a huge experience advantage over Radcliffe (8-2) so let’s hope he can make it count!


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