Michael ‘Tomahawk’ Thompson

imagesInternational Kickboxer Magazine, Nov/Dec 2012

Michael ‘Tomahawk Thompson has had 41 fights in the brief period he has been Thai boxing. This is all the more remarkable when you take in to account he is only 22 years old. He tells the story of a remarkable career-in-the-making to JARROD BOYLE.

Michael ‘Tomahawk’ Thompson has had 42 fights for 31 wins in a career that started only six years ago, when he began Thai boxing at the tender age of 15.

“I live in Rochedale, which is close to the Iron Fist Muay Thai Gym,” he says. As is so often the case, he started attending training with mates, who progressively dropped off. In the process of doing something as an activity with friends, he discovered something he was immensely good at, which became something major he wanted to do with his life.

“Actually, I saw one of my friends get a bit of a touch-up in the schoolyard from a guy who was doing Muay Thai,” he confesses. “The way he put it together; it wasn’t karate, it wasn’t boxing.” He adds, with a laugh: “I had good intentions, of course.”

Good intentions swiftly became great success under the watchful eye of Daniel Bell.

“Daniel, as a trainer, is really good. He’s a good mentor in general. He tells you what you need to hear, and he has a broad range of knowledge. He knows about the way the body works, which is good in relation to injuries. As far as skills go, he’s great with boxing. We do lots of footwork, and he understands how to integrate it with Thai boxing. I really enjoy it – I’m still learning.”

Bell understood his adolescent charge well, and worked to his strengths. “My strongest quality is probably my punching. I also love elbows; they’re a great tool to have. [Iron Fist] Gym promotes it. We spend a lot of time practising angles and punching.”

Michael put these tools to work early, taking his first fight at the age of 15 – and winning. “There’s no legal age requirement in Queensland. I had trained for five months and I decided I’d have a crack. The first three or four fights were padded, on shows like JWP’s Boonchu and Paul Demicoli’s Next Generation amateur show.

“My first pro show was when I was on Evolution. That was my seventh fight. I was terrified; so many people, such a big show. I fought a guy named Brodie Stalder. He was seventeen, but he’d had about 20 fights. I beat him on points as a sixteen-year-old. It was a really good high.” Michael’s eighth fight was for a strap no less prestigious than the WMC Queensland title at 57kg.

Success followed success until fight number twelve. “When I was seventeen, I had my first loss. I lost by decision to Ghot Seur Noi for the Australian WMC title.” Other than Ghot being a fighter of outstanding pedigree, other pressures were coming to bear, the closer Michael got to finishing school. “I got a girlfriend, got my license, went to a few school parties… my mind wasn’t as focused as it should have been.

“I wanted to have fun, but didn’t want to let it go. I kept training and took a few more fights, but really, I should have had a break. There were a lot of fights I should have won over that two-year period. My heart was in training, but my head wasn’t. I won one fight out of seven; I lost five in a row.”

There is one sure-fire cure for any fighter at a perilous cross-roads in his career, even when he’s seventeen.

“I went to Thailand and got my head straight. I had to ask myself, ‘Did I want to be a fighter, or an average eighteen year old?’ I made the decision, and stuck at it.”

Evidently, it worked. So did whatever training Michael did over there, because when he returned to Australia, he picked up two national titles in quick succession.

“I won the ISKA amateur title under full Thai rules, and then turned pro in 2009. My eighteenth fight was on Evolution. I knocked out Chris Petrie in the first round with an elbow. My twenty-third fight was for the pro WMC title at 61kg. I was nineteen.”

From there, the hits just kept on coming. “I fought on Paul Demicoli’s eight-man tournament and was matched against Flip Street. That was the biggest fight of my career to that time, and I beat him unanimously. It was a big year – I had twelve fights in twelve months and only lost two. After that, I needed a break.” That had been the plan, but after an uneventful Christmas, he was straight back into training – and fighting.

“In 2010, I had six fights. I fought Sing Siri on Evolution and got the KO in the second. At the end of the year, I fought another Thai, Yudrawaii. I lost on split points, but I didn’t feel too bad about it: he’d had about two hundred and fifty fights to my thirty.” That said, Michael was unhappy with his performance, specifically in the grapple. “I went to the WMC camp for three weeks and spent the time doing personals with a trainer named Tum; he’s probably one of the best grapplers in the world. It really improved my technique, and it made me stronger.”

That strength was quickly put to the test when matched against Flip Street’s for the second time – with the Oceania WMC title at stake. Street had done his homework this time around and wasn’t going to settle for the decision going against him.

“It was a really tough fight,” Michael remembers. “I dropped him in the second, and then he dropped me in the third. I ended up losing on split points.”

“Then, I was just over it [Thai boxing], so I took another break for 3 months. Then I had the itch again. I fought a Thai who was coming off three straight wins at Lumpini, on a show called Rumble at the Metro. I wanted my old-self back; I came out hard and angry, and it worked. I dominated him with punches and leg kicks and won by decision.”

Shortly after, Michael had the opportunity to avenge and old loss and bring to bear the single commodity that makes an older fighter and holds a younger one back – experience. “I fought Yudrawaii again. This time, I beat him on points to take the decision for the pro WMC Intercontinental title at 63.5kg.”

This set the scene for 2012, Michael’s biggest year yet, which hasn’t been without its disappointments. “I had Christmas off again and prepared for my next fight against Kampan. I had a really strong four months of diet and training to prepare. I was all set for Evolution – and then the show was cancelled.” It’s no surprise that his preparation going to waste had a strong negative effect.

“I was depressed! Slowly, over the last six years, I had worked my way up to becoming the main event, and then I got shit on.” Michael consoled himself the way he often does – with training and travel.

“Immediately after, I jumped on a plane and went to Amsterdam for a couple of months, to train in the Dutch Style. I chose Mejiro, which is Andy Souwer’s old gym. Andre Manaart is the head-trainer there. I have to say, I wasn’t overly pleased with the experience. It didn’t suit my style as well as I’d thought it would. The best part was sparring twice a week with some of the big boys; the 80kg guys.”

When asked what was missing, Michael provides a complex answer. “I think you had to be one of the gym’s fighters to really get help. In the general classes, the intensity wasn’t there, either. I trained twice a day; I’d go into the gym in the morning and do my own thing on the bag, and then go back to train for only an hour at night. I was staying in a hostel as well, which is a disruptive atmosphere. I couldn’t get the sleep I needed. In a hostel, people are coming back at all hours, drunk and, in Amsterdam, quite stoned as well. I had to go and find share accommodation in the end.”

The experience didn’t live up to expectations, so in mid-June, Michael decided to take drastic action. “I felt I was losing my edge, so I cut my stay short and went to Thailand. I stayed in Bangkok and trained at the Elite Boxing Gym. Nugget was there and he started training me. Then, one of the Thai trainers, Gae, took over. He was a really good trainer; I found I got a lot stronger in kicking, and my grappling improved so much because I had to do it every day. I was asked to fight and I fought on the Prince’s Cup, which was a WMC show. I won via second round KO with a spinning elbow. That was about one month ago.”

In the short time since, fate bought him back to Kampan.

“I got home start of August and fought on Total Carnage II. After the disappointment of Evolution, I finally got the opportunity [to fight Kampan]. I beat him on points; it was a tough fight.”

It seems that from Michael’s performances, he is, so to speak, very Thai. Suprisingly, when asked if he would live and fight in Thailand, the answer is a definitive ‘no’.

“The Thai style is completely opposite to my style,” he explains. “I go at a different pace; my style is an up-front, kickboxing-style of Muay Thai. It’s different to the Thais in that they try to fight more on points, like they’re playing a game. When I fight, I’m trying to knock your block off. I go out there like I’m trying to hurt you. In a nice way, of course.”

It’s hard to ask a twenty-two year old fighter to be philosophical about a career that had only been going for six. So far, however, the main things seem to be in place. “My body is holding up really well,” says Michael. “No injuries, and I’m still loving it.”

As far as the remainder of the year is concerned, Michael is scheduled to fight against the Thai fighter, Pornsanth, on Wayne Parr’s Caged Muay Thai show.

“I think I’m going to be doing a lot of boxing training,” says Michael. “At the end of day, I’ve worn kicks and elbows, but I’ve never been hit with a four-ounce glove. I’m going to try and make the most of my punches and finish it early.”

Beyond that it seems, the sky is the limit.

“Up until recently, I didn’t think there was much chance of fighting for a world title. Now, I believe that if I push, I can get there. I want to make my name into a legacy; something for young fighters to look up to, like Carnage or JWP.” He remains modest, however, and is emphatic that he has the opportunity to thank his sponsors.

“I really appreciate the support of Punish Fight Gear, Innate Vitality, Eco Electrics and my boss, Dece McDonald; Templar’s Code Clothing, A.P.C. Packaging and Craters, P.S.T. Performance Automotive, Eight-Ball Media, and Allan’s Industrial Products.”

Michael has all the hallmarks of a champion; heart, skill and courage. Like theirs, his career is already marked by the vicissitudes of success and disappointment. If he can keep pushing, he may earn his world title and cast a legacy to stand beside Australia’s best. His record and outstanding performances to date have given us the outline.

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