Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Friday, 15 July 2011

World Titles – Are You Swimming In A Pond Or An Ocean?

Well, what’s a blog for if you can’t have a bit of a rant. Here’s one of mine. I was chatting to a top Thai boxing trainer/promoter last week and we started to rant about this, so I think its time to put it into a blog post and see what you all think.

And just to let you all know, this is aimed at no-one, and no show in particular. It’s the way I feel, and I put this out for discussion.

What better way to start but with a bit of trumpet blowing.

I’ve been fortunate to have had a long fight career, one where I’ve won more than I’ve lost, where I’ve tested myself, and along the way achieved thirteen World Titles. Yet, what does being a ‘World Champion’ actually say you have achieved?

The title that I am most proud of is my WAKO World Champion title for Heavyweight Full Contact Kickboxing. This one was an amateur World Title, yet it is the one that means the most to me. The competition raged in Poland over 5 days and I fought in a tournament against National Champions from nearly 70 countries. I earned that title the hard way – through blood, sweat, tears, and injuries – picking myself up and throwing myself time and time again into the ring. The fact that Britain has only won gold medals for Full Contact three times (me, Dev Barrett, Chris McNeish) in a competition that has been taking place for nearly twenty five years tells you something of the achievement. Yep, I’m pretty proud of this one.

All of my titles are what I consider to be true titles – apart from this one that follows. I hold a Thai Boxing World Title for beating Azem Maksutaj in Switzerland (the year he bust up K-1 Vegas and was tipped as the hottest fighter on the scene.) It is a fight I am very proud of though – for me, the challenge has always been in the opponents and not the prize, and Azem was one tough cookie to beat. Me knocking Azem down during this fight is currently my Facebook profile picture. The title itself though was for a pretty obscure governing body, although even this one was an international body. The title didn’t represent much at all.

So what makes my World Titles ‘true’ titles? They are all from truly international bodies, I fought foreign opponents and travelled the world for the fights, and the standard of competition was high. I put out challenges and I was challenged. The fights all took place on the world stage – I was a fish swimming in a massive ocean.

Even back in the day, in the 90’s, I won the biggest two British kickboxing titles against the top level opponents in Ricky Nicholson and Lee Swaby (WKA and WAKO). Back then titles really meant something, and these British Titles probably mean more of an achievement than most of the World Titles being won today.

Because nowadays it seems everyone is a World Champion. And whereas I know that all have been earned through effort and emotion, I do wonder about how much value these titles hold.

Most of the ‘World’ Champions aren’t really champions of the world. Instead, they are champions of a ‘show’. There are so many shows out there giving their versions of world titles, where the challenged only take place on their shows, often just fighting domestic opponents, some only ever featuring local fighters.

With these shows the pond is small, and often the fish aren’t even that big.

I think it totally devalues what a title actually is.

I’ve always enjoyed the challenge more than the titles, and I’m proud to say that I’ve fought against the best in the world, on a true world stage. Some I won, some I lost. For me, the challenge was in my opponents not the prize. So with titles being devalued I can still hold my head high and know where I’ve been and who I have fought, and the quality of my opponents.

I may be a little fish but I definitely have been swimming in the biggest ocean.

What are you swimming in?

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