Andrew ‘KO’ Keogh: Last Call

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International Kickboxer Magazine, March/April 2014

Thai boxing is about adversity. It’s about stacking yourself up high enough in training to overcome the obstacles that come at you in the ring. For some though, the battles are just as tough outside of it. Andrew Keogh is one such fighter.

“I started training with Stefan Fox when I was about eleven or twelve years old,” he remembers. “My dad got us into it. My brother and I were always fighting. I think Dad believed it would give us discipline, and we did stop fighting one another as much. We were both very competitive kids, and it gave us an outlet.”

Andrew and his brother were training at the right place. Stefan Fox, who went on to become the international co-ordinator for the World Muay Thai Council, had started up the premier Muay Thai gym in Mackay in Queensland.

“Looking back, we were probably spoilt,” says Keogh. “Stefan was bringing over the best Thais to teach, so we were getting the highest level of instruction.”

Fox taught the boys a combination of Muay Thai and Wing Chun Kung Fu.

“My brother and I were competing in the Karate All-Styles tournaments at that time. It was on a mat instead of a ring, and there was a set of rules, in particular, you couldn’t punch to the head. By the time I was fourteen, I was fighting in the ring. At that time, the end of the eighties to the early nineties, fighting in a ring was just coming in.”

As a teenager, Aaron was active in a broad range of sports, playing everything from hockey to basketball and athletics.

“I pretty much had a crack at everything growing up,” he says. “Once you turn eighteen, you can’t do everything at once because you have to work as well. All those other sports helped with my fitness, though. I don’t think I lost any of my first eight fights because I was so fit. Basically, I was running all the time.”

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Andrew’s fighting career spans close enough to two decades and claims a tally of sixty-five fights for forty-five wins, sixteen losses and four draws. The crowning achievement of his career was a world-title win in 2008. Even more impressive, his stopped his opponent, Cambodian Meas Chantha, in the first round – by knockout.

“No-one expected me to win,” says Andrew. “But at that time I was training twice a day, eating and resting and I had nothing else to worry about. I was the fittest I’ve ever been. That whole year, I had six fights and I won them all.”

Winning a world title is a coveted achievement, standing at the pinnacle of most athlete’s aspirations.

“That world title would have been my most memorable fight,” says Andrew. “It was in my home town of Mackay. We had three thousand people show up that night. I was the only Mackay fighter on the card; everyone – even the ring girls – had flown in from Brisbane.

“When I fought, the whole place went nuts. Whenever I go to Mackay, I get a lot of support. The Pride and Glory shows are always a great success. Jamie Kearnes is the promoter and he always does an excellent job. Everyone wants to fight on that show because he looks after everyone so well. Most really well-known Aussie fighters have fought on it for that reason.”

Andrew has met some tough customers in his time, all of which have one thing in common.

“Southpaws just mess me up. Mike Demetriou is so awkward. He KOed me at the start of last year with a spinning elbow. When I re-matched him, I thought I was doing better, but then he beat me again!”

There are a number of left-handed Thais that have also given Keogh plenty of trouble.

“There was a Thai fighter named Tuk. He wasn’t very big, but I was purple on my whole right side for a month. There was one other Thai whose name I can’t remember; Warren Elson fought him. I do remember, though, that his calves were bigger than my head. He smacked me black and blue.”

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Keogh’s honesty is refreshing; even world champions have their dog-days.

Andrew had a three-year layoff from fighting shortly after his world title victory. His reasons for returning to fighting are somewhat atypical.

“I needed extra money to get married! Promoters had been hounding me for years to fight, but it took me three years to get off my arse. I fought Mark Lucchiari, up here on the Sunshine Coast. After I won, I proposed to my wife from the ring.”

While Andrew’s comeback fight was a success, the form of his world-title days has been elusive.

“Last year, I was fighting at seventy two kilos but this year, I’ve gone up to seventy six. I’ve gone up a weight class because I struggle to keep my weight down. I walk around at between eighty-five and eighty-eight [kilograms].”

Thai boxers are used to losing significant amounts of weight to fight, and there are as many ways to go about it as there are fighters that need to do it.

“I tend to drop it through training,” says Andrew. “I eat right and train hard. Sometimes, though, it’s not that easy.”

Andrew’s routine has been out of kilter due to his work commitments being at at-odds with his training schedule.

“I work as a personal trainer at Fortitude Fitness in the Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, but I own a house on the Sunshine Coast. It’s probably an hour and a half drive there and back. I make the drive probably four times a week. When I’m in Brisbane, I tend to stay overnight at a mate’s place. This year, I’m looking at buying a unit in Brisbane. Being able to stay in the unit will allow me to get into a better routine.”

While Andrew has been struggling to make weight in recent times, he has also found it tough to return to form from his days as world champion.

“I’ve had eight fights in two years after three years off, which have come out at four wins and four losses. I think that a better routine means I’ll be able to do better.”

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Andrew’s twenty years in fighting have allowed him to work out the particulars of fighting and training. He is still working with the same people who made his world title dream a reality.

“I train with Ian Jacobs in the morning, and Aaron Smith at Corporate Box in the afternoon. Ian is great; he’s very technical and there is a big emphasis on fitness. He has all kinds of little tricks to help you get that extra speed and power out of your body.”

In addition to his morning sessions with Jacobs, Andrew trains at Corporate Box with Aaron Smith in the afternoons.

“I train with Aaron every afternoon from two until four. He guides me through the afternoon session and then tries to kill me on the pads. I wouldn’t have it any other way! Aaron also does my corner when I fight.”

Corporate Box also boasts a serious roster of fighters who provide plenty of elite-level sparring.

“I spar with Shaggy, Aaron McAlister, and Preacher. There are always plenty of guys to spar.”

In addition to addressing his training regimen, Andrew is clear on his goals for 2014.

“I’m fighting Daniel Kerr on Primal on the twenty-second of February and then I’m looking at an interim world title on Pride and Glory in April. Then, I’m fighting on the Pride and Glory show at end of year in Mackay.”

While Keogh is clear-eyed about 2014, he is aware that his Thai boxing career is much closer to its end than it is to the beginning.

“I don’t have a lot of injuries; I recover fine and I can still get super-fit. The only thing I struggle with is cutting weight. I think the fact my weight has gone up and down over the years has made it harder to get it off and keep it off. My body wants to hold on to it.”

Like his attitude to fighting and training, Keogh’s attitude to retirement is practical.

“I’ll see how I feel as the year goes on. I might do one more year, depending on how I feel. It’s very hard to give it up, because the fighting and the training is just so enjoyable.”

As enjoyable as it is watching him fight. With a restored routine, perhaps Andrew Keogh will be able to capture another world title.

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