Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lethwei finds a voice

World lethwei champion Dave Leduc, scheduled to defend his title next month, recently spoke with The Myanmar Times about his career, ambitions and what it took him to get to where he finds himself today.

To champion Dave Leduc, a knockout is a more emphatic statement of winning than a victory by points. Nyan Zay Htet / The Myanmar TimesTo champion Dave Leduc, a knockout is a more emphatic statement of winning than a victory by points. Nyan Zay Htet / The Myanmar Times

Nicknamed ‘’The Nomad’, the 25-year-old Canadian will defend his title against American Muaythai fighter Cyrus Washington on June 16 in Tokyo, Japan, his third defense of the title he won last December from Tun Tun Min. The other two were against Phoe Kay of Myanmar – by knockout – and Adem Yilmaz of Australia which ended in an exciting draw.

He expects Washington to be a tougher proposition than Phoe Kay and Yilmaz because the American is a seasoned Muaythai professional with a long mileage in lethwei as well, who holds the rare feat of having beaten Tun Tun Min back in 2014.

Here are excerpts from the Q&A with The Nomad.

How old were you when you started training martial arts and who taught you?

Seventeen. Sifu Patrick Marcil, my coach from day one, I was always training with him, very aggressive head butts and no gloves.

When did you realise you wanted to be a pro fighter?

I had a very successful amateur career, then I wanted to challenge myself and measure myself to other trained athletes and, more importantly, I wanted to be a world champion.

Are you excited about fighting Cyrus Washington? Are you nervous because like you Cyrus has also beaten Tun Tun Min? Do you think you are going to win?

I respect Tun Tun Min a lot, I think he is one of the greatest lethwei fighters of our time, but I am more technical than him, I have better clinch, more reach, overall more tricks in my bag. So even though Cyrus won against Tun Tun Min, no I am not scared of him, because he never fought someone like me. Cyrus is a very experienced Muaythai and lethwei veteran, at this level you always need to be careful, nobody is taken lightly.

Tun Tun Min and Too Too have said they want a rematch with you – will you accept?

I completely dominated Too Too. It was not even close. But I saw him do well after our fight, I saw him against Muaythai fighter Berneung Topkingboxing, nice KO, but he would need to do way more to beat me.

Especially, that when we fought, it was my first lethwei fight ever, and only my 14th fight in total.

And when I fought Tun Tun Min it was only my second lethwei fight in my life. They are lucky I didn’t have many lethwei fight when we faced each other. It is already my second title defense and I already see a big difference with my style and how I feel in the ring since my first fight.

If they challenge me, I will talk with my team. But right now I am focused on fighting foreign fighters and taking lethwei to the world.

I truly feel like I was Burmese in another life, so I prefer showing the world how powerful lethwei is by going head-to-head with foreign fighters. I am always ready to fight. Anywhere, anytime, anybody and at any weight.

What is your next target after Cyrus?

There’s no opponent confirmation yet. I will be fighting at the Lethwei World Championship which gets going in Yangon later this year – on August 20.

How do you feel about representing Myanmar as a lethwei fighter?

I feel I’m at the right place. I was always training to be a lethwei fighter. I never liked to fight with gloves and always liked to train with head butts. It feels natural for me. It is an honour to be Myanmar’s champion and to be given the opportunity to bring lethwei to the world.

We have dominated events in Tokyo and Myanmar, soon we will take lethwei to New Zealand. We are living in such an exciting time for the sport. It is the new era of striking sport. Lethwei is making its mark as the most exciting and effective striking art. Before Muaythai and K1 were known to be popular striking style for martial artist.

What do you think of lethwei – its rules and regulations?

I am really focused on keeping the tradition alive. I want to keep the traditional rules of Myanmar boxing alive. It is very important for me that we do not loose the soul of lethwei just to be appealing to the rest of the world. The reason why lethwei is so powerful is because of the agressiveness, and the absence of scoring system. It is clear in my mind, that for example, if we add judges and a scoring system, the fighters will not be as aggressive because they know they can win on points at the end of five rounds. But if the only way to win is by knockout, the fighters really go for the finish, that is true lethwei; aggressive from the opening bell, not starting at the third or fourt round like in Muaythai. The ‘’knockout only rule” is the whole essence of the sport.

Before turning to lethwei, you were a Muaythai fighter; what is the difference between the two?

I was always a lethwei fighter, I always loved lethwei. Even back in Canada we were training headbutts, and training bareknuckle. I remember watching videos of Tun Tun Min and Too Too saying to Sifu Patrick Marcil, that my goal was to fight them under traditional lethwei rules. But the situation in Myanmar was not good for tourist back then, so I ended up going to Thailand because it was easier for visa and to get fights. Now it is easier here and I will make sure to bring as many tourists to this country as possible, to train and fight lethwei.

Lethwei is more effective than Muaythai because the fighters don’t focus on scoring points, it is only to get the KO.

When will you retire?

My goal when I started my fighting career was to be a lethwei Golden Belt. Now that I have accomplished my goal, I am fighting because that’s what I love to do.

What is your goal for Myanmar?

I want to bring as much money for the country as possible. I hope to bring economic growth through the national sport of lethwei. I will do my absolute best to put the spotlight on Myanmar as the top destination for martial arts. Mark my words.

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