Suffolk fighter Joe Le Maire wins British title at the 02

SUFFOLK Thai boxer Joe Le Maire is the county’s newest British champion after he claimed the national title in a gruelling battle at London’s 02 on Saturday.

The 14-year-old, who trains at Bury St Edmunds’ Unit One gym, was awarded a majority decision win over Kieran Parker to lift the UKMF 40kg British title belt at the renowned Xplosion Fight Series show.

He summoned reserves of energy to dominate the decisive fifth and final round, taking the fight to his opponent – whom he had beaten once before this year – and scoring with punches and powerful clinch work.

Speaking afterwards, the talented teenager said: “It was a tough fight – he was better than the last fight we had and it was more of a challenge.

“It was the first time I’ve done five two-minute rounds. I got tired in round four and started to lose it a bit but in the fifth round I decided that I had to go forward – I knew if I didn’t pick it up, I wouldn’t win.

“I really wanted it – being aggressive was the key to winning the fight. It feels really good.”

Of the day, Le Maire added: “I don’t know how to describe it.

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“It feels like a once in a lifetime thing, but I‘d love to come back and fight at the 02 again.”

Le Maire, who thanked his corner team and a vociferous band of supporters who made the trip to London to back him, now plans to defend his Celtic Challenge title later this month.

He is set to face Jack Byrne in a rematch of a close fight he won earlier this year.

Richard Gent, the co-owner of Unit One Gym who trained Le Maire for the title fight, spoke of his pride in the young fighter.

“It was a lot harder than I expected it to be,” he said. “I thought going into the fifth round he was slightly behind and he needed the round to get the win.

“I’m so proud of him. Now he’ll defend his Celtic Challenge title – the last fight was a close fight and they wanted a rematch so we’ll give it to them.”

Le Maire becomes the first British champion from the Unit One gym, and Gent hopes his success will prove a catalyst for the other up-and-coming fighters based at the facility.

He said: “We’ve matched Joe tough to get him some experience but now it’s all paying off big time.

“When people talk about the best young fighters in the country, I wanted to make sure he was one that gets mentioned – what we’ve done in the last year has got him noticed and now everyone knows who he is.

“I think if you get one or two people having success at your gym then it sets the bar high and motivates other people there to excel.

“They say success breeds success and I think that’s true.”

Another Unit One junior, 12-year-old Hannah Turner, is next in line to fight for a British title – a bout provisionally set for Altrincham on June 3.

- Call Unit One on 01284 760468 if you want to learn Thai boxing.

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