Fri, Feb 27, 2009
S'pore can be muay thai powerhouse

[Photo: Stephan Fox, host of The Contender Asia and former muay thai world champion, was here last weekend to coach 70 Fitness First trainers at Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre.]

by Kenny Chee

SINGAPORE has what it takes to be a muay thai giant in South-east Asia, said Mr Stephan Fox, host of muay thai reality-television show The Contender Asia.

'Singapore has a good chance at a medal for the South-east Asian Games if its fighters don't get thrown against Thailand's in the first round,' said the German-born, Australia-based presenter, who is also the vice-president of the World Muay Thai Council in Bangkok.

The 45-year-old former muay thai world champion was here last weekend to coach 70 personal trainers from Fitness First gyms in muay thai training techniques.

The Contender Asia, which was first aired in January last year, cemented Mr Fox's respect for Singapore's talent.

'Kim Khan Zaki represented Singapore...and (he) showed that the country is up there with the best after beating Croat Zidov Dominik,' said Mr Fox. Zaki had lost to Zidov in Contender Asia's seventh episode because of a shoulder injury, but beat the Croat in five rounds during a rematch in the show's finale.

Yodsaenklai Fairtex, a Thai fighter, eventually took the grand prize.

Mr Fox noted that Singapore is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world when it comes to muay thai.

'Singaporeans love the muay thai tradition, the martial-arts background and the hard workout. They love to compete,' he said.

Indeed, Fitness First said it saw a 10 per cent increase in members taking up muay thai pad-work training after The Contender Asia aired. Mr Fox is set to host the show's next season, which is expected to air in May or June.

The finals will be held in Malaysia and qualifiers for the show's fighters are already ongoing. He promises fighters of even higher calibre, competing for more prize money (he declined to reveal the exact amount).

In Season One, the prize money was US$250,000 (S$384,000).

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