Calgary native proves why he is one of North America’s best amateur Muay Thai fighters

On Friday, Oct. 19, Calgary’s Hakeem Dawodu proved that he is one the world’s best amateur Muay Thai fighters. The 5-7,142-pound 2011 International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) world light welterweight champion battled opponents from England and the United States in the sixth installment of the Challenger series, FATE, presented by Mike Miles Muay Thai and Kickboxing LTD.

Dawodu, 21, is a product of Mike Miles Muay Thai gym of Calgary. Coming into the event, he held an impressive record of 40 wins with just five losses. Dawodu is fully committed to the sport because he now not only trains at Mike Miles gym, but he also teaches the art too.

Muay Thai is a form of martial arts that originates from the country of Thailand. It features a myriad of stand-up strikes and grappling techniques involving punches and kicks along with elbow and knee strikes.

The Challenger title

Hakeem Dawodu delivers a devastating knee strike to his opponent as he fights to win the Challenger 6 FATE title belt.

Photo by Michael ChanChallenger 6: FATE International Muay Thai gala was held in Calgary this weekend at Bowness Sportsplex and the event showcased some of the best amateur Muay Thai fighters from around the globe.

No cash prizes were involved, just a championship belt and bragging rights for the country that wins. The event featured a four-man tournament that included competitors from Thailand, England, United States and Canada.

Although championship belts and pride were on the line, the tournament meant more than just promoting fighters and the event. It is about sharing the art of Muay Thai boxing.

“This event is about more than the fighters or the championships,” said Nick Heise, a volunteer at Challenger 6. “We hope people in Calgary can get a chance to enjoy some authentic Muay Thai fighting.”

The evening started off with disappointing news, as Chaopayak Kiattheppitak of Thailand, one of the four featured fighters, could not participate in the tournament because of his blood results not being sent in on time. The process is standard procedure for any fighting tournaments including Mix Martial Arts (MMA) events. This is done to protect the fighters from any blood borne diseases, as open wounds happen regularly throughout a fight.

The tournament resorted to just three participants. The fighters drew numbers to determine who would get a first-round bye, meaning one fighter would only have to win a single fight to become the FATE champion.

Unfortunately for Hakeem Dawodu, who represented Canada in the tournament, he was not awarded the first-round bye. Despite this, the reigning North American champion proved why he is considered the very best in his division.

Dawodu’s road to victory

In his first match against England’s Wayne Fisher, Dawodu took control from the very start of the matchup. Throughout the fight the crowd could see the confidence emanating from the fighter as he gave his opponent a deathly stare after every strike. Dawodu dictated the pace throughout the fight, winning with a unanimous decision.

Hakeem Dawodu going through pre-matchup rituals as he prepares to fight in the Challenger 6 FATE tournament.

Photo by Michael Chan“Hakeem fought really well,” said local amateur boxer Mackenzie Loyson. “He was just amazing, he was worth coming for to watch.”

Dawodu winning his match against Fisher meant he would be fighting in the night’s main event against United States’ Omer Estevez.

In the opening round of the five-round matchup, it seemed as though Dawodu was once again in complete control of the fight, dodging and striking Estevez almost at will. However, Estevez would quickly make changes to his tactics in the second round by going at Dawodu with a flurry of punches and knee strikes.

“He really tried to tire me out (in the second round) by putting more pressure on me,” says Dawodu on Estevez’s round-two game change.

Even though it looked as though Dawodu was forced to slow down his pace throughout the third, fourth and fifth rounds, he was always in control.

“Guys who give me the most trouble are the ones that block and counter,” said Dawodu. “Him putting pressure on me just made him easier to hit.”

By the end of the matchup, the results were clear. Before the bell even sounded people began leaving their seats and filing out.

The winner and champion of Challenger 6: FATE, by unanimous decision, Hakeem Dawodu.

mchan@cjournal.ca