WMC WORLD CHAMP
SINBI MUAY THAI, PHUKET, THAILAND
My name is Geraldine O’ Callaghan, Gerry for short and I’ve also been given a Thai nickname by the trainers that I don’t particularly like but foolishly answer to – I am not going to say what it is though! I am from the UK. I am now 45 years old and have had 40 fights to date. My record is W29 L10 D1 I came to Thailand in August 2007 for 3 months after having been made redundant and I started Muay Thai then. It was just for a break and for fitness but I somehow ended up having 2 fights whilst I was here. I went back to London to work again but didn’t like working (never have really) and came back to Thailand again in December 2008 – just over a year after I left for the first time. Again I saw this as a break. I didn’t have a plan but thought I would stay at least 6 months and travel a bit and maybe get some idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I never went back permanently or reached any decision about what I wanted to do. I stayed in Thailand and kept doing fights. So maybe I found my answer. I am now at Sinbi Muay Thai and was given the opportunity to fight for a world title (WMC) in August this year, thanks to Sing, owner/manager of Sinbi. I won!
How long have you been doing Muay Thai & what made you start?
I started Muay Thai in August 2007 when I came to Phuket on a long holiday, after being made redundant. I had been doing kickboxing in London for a couple of years for fitness and some boxing too but never competitively – just for fitness. When i was waiting for my job to end I started to read about Muay Thai on the internet and as I was doing kickboxing thought it would be fun to try while I had the opportunity before looking for another job.
How long have you lived and trained in Thailand & what gyms have you been to?
It’s now nearly 4 years. I started out at Rawai Muay Thai and came to Sinbi last October. Back in the UK after my first experience training in Thailand I trained at Diesel Gym in East London.
I haven’t really given it much thought. Sometimes the boys may be a bit apprehensive of sparring with you and are either too nice or go to hard. Once they are used to you it’s ok.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Every fight is a challenge and training is always a challenge too, especially coming up to a fight, both physically and mentally. There were a couple of fights that I should have seen as bigger challenges because my opponents were ranked fighters – but I didn’t know at the time who I was fighting – which was maybe a good thing. One of these fights was against Valentina Shevchenko – I managed to survive the fight But perhaps the first biggest challenge with regards to fighting was competing for the first time at the Queen’s Cup in Bangkok in August 2010. I think this was a bit of a turning point for me as a “fighter”. It made it seem more real as had only been doing local fights and wasn’t sure how seriously I was taken.
One of the toughest fights was against Valentina. I had little experience and was completely outclassed by her. Her unorthodox style and mad jumping threw me. I managed not to get KO’d and go the rounds. The next toughest fight was against a girl called Aurore. She was very tall and muscular and hit the hardest I’ve ever been hit . I got kneed in the forehead and cut so the fight was stopped in the 4th. It was tough because of her range, strength and unpredictability and I wasn’t prepared. I was stunned and just kept moving forward which wasn’t very intelligent looking back. It was tough especially afterward as I got quite depressed and questioned whether I should be fighting or not. But that passed and I carried on.
What drives you to train & fight? what are your goals?
Even when I was not training Muay Thai and fighting I trained a lot – I ran and cycled.I ran before work every morning and then cycled to work. The cycling was more to save money and not use the tube but when I think back I was covering a lot of kms – 20 to sometimes 40 kms in a day etc so I think it helped keep me keep fit. I suppose I see it as a personal challenge and as you always have something to learn you have to keep going. Naturally I want to improve and clean up my technique (or lack of it). I always want to get fitter and stronger Now more people are mentioning my age I want to show them that you can be just as fit and strong or more so than someone in their 20s. My goal is simple – to improve and fight better. I’m looking for a fight that I really feel good about.
I think watching boxing matches on TV when I was a kid and also martial arts and boxing films may have sowed the seed. I loved the films when the underdog comes out the winner and films like Rocky where you see the training and physical transformation before a fights
I was so happy to win the title. It didn’t seem real. I was very nervous before. I’m always nervous before my fights but more so in this one as it was such an opportunity for me that I really wanted and was nervous of messing up.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a fighter?
I don’t know what I would do. I just want to win the lottery so I don’t have to think about it. I work part-time here now so this allows me to stay here and train too which is ideal.
Most people start Muay Thai younger in life, what made you decide to move to Thailand and become a professional fighter in your 40′s?
I didn’t have any plan to move here and certainly no plan to fight. It never entered my head that it was a possibility. There was no well thought out plan – it was an accident. As I said before it was supposed to be a break. I didn’t even know how long I’d stay. It just sort of happened. I liked the lifestyle and training, though of course i look forward to times I am not training too!
If you want to fight, be committed and train hard, follow a routine, keep a strong mind and don’t give up – run a lot too. I don’t think age should be an issue as long as you are fit and prepared to train hard. There are lots of famous boxers now in their 40s. Bernard Hopkins, comes to mind. Of course to train full-time isn’t easy especially if you have to work.
People you would like to thank?
Lots of people: Rocky Kwai Chang Caine from Kung Fu. Movies and watching boxing on TV with my Dad which began a fascination with boxing and martial arts. All the excellent trainers at Sinbi of course – especially Run who keeps an eye on my training and shouts at me a lot, actually all of the time and sometimes for no apparent reason. The mysterious Mr Sing for letting me fight for Sinbi and giving me the opportunity to fight for a world title for which I am really grateful. All the “Sinbi” girls present and past (I won’t list) who I train with and the boys too! The trainers who were at Rawai gym I started out training with. Cliff Burra, a gifted teacher and owner of Diesel gym in the UK for inspiring me to carry on with Muay Thai when I was back in London and always taking an interest in my progress. And Wioletta Waluk, my training and running partner in London who motivated me to train more than I initially thought was normal . And my brothers and sisters!
Interview and photos by Natasha Sky & from facebook