By Tony Manoharan
It’s been a few moons. A few moons since we last smiled. It’s been a rough one lately. But, the storm has ended. Remember those sunny days? The bright ones that started early in morning.
I recall those early mornings as if they were yesterday. Walking into the gym at half past six. You would be holding pads for Dtung at 5 o’clock in there morning. He had a big fight coming up in Bangkok. You wanted to train him hard on the pads before he took off to school. Get him prepared and fit to fight. But, you also made sure he was going to get to school on time.
The sun started to creep through the clouds. You would load the truck up with fighters, foreigners, travelers and K9’s. It was a short drive to the hillside. But longer run back to the gym. Sometimes I’d stay back with you and walk the dogs around the lake. They were loyal to you as much as you were loyal to them. I remember you telling me, how they were the ones that adopted you, and not the other way around.
Back at the gym, you would work relentlessly with the fighters. You trained multiple champions. Traveling the world to work their corners. But, you also had the patience of a high school teacher, helping the newcomers to Muaythai. Showing them the basics and how each technique flowed. You did this with a smile on your face. Enjoying every second, watching the newcomer fall in love with the sport.
The fight nights in Chiang Mai were a treat. You would load up your truck to the brim with the fighters, spectators and even a young pup. Den, Neung, Tor and the rest of the Thai’s would be close by on the motorbikes riding to the stadium. Daeng and JR would tape the fighter’s hands. The mongkol would go on with your blessing and the fighter you trained would be ready to shine.
I always remember your words as you took you off that mongkol, “Do your best” said with a smile. All the nerves would disappear instantly. The fight would then commence. No matter how tough a round it was, we’d come back to the corner, nerves and adrenaline engulfed in flames. You’d sit us down, standing the edge of the ring, smile and quiet the storm with your advice. The next round felt like a new wave.
No matter what the result or outcome was in the fight, you asked the same question each and every time as we walked out off the ring….”Are you okay?”
Our safety was your number one concern.
The days at the hill camp were ones to remember. An early morning coffee with you and the dogs, then we’d run the mountains of the Lahu village. Getting back to the boxing ring, you would get us on the pads. Those favorite Boon pads of yours Scott made. You’d take time with us to make improvements with each passing round. You’d get us fit and fight ready – Mentally and physically. Whether we fought or not, you prepared us for any obstacle.
The dinner table was a treat after training. Listening to all the war stories. Memories of the boxers you took into battle. What their hurdles were, what they did to grind through the fight, and most importantly, why they were there to fight.
You’ve seen the world many times overs and was always unselfishly willing to share yours with a passing stranger. From working in the Saudi oil fields for months on end, to keep the gym afloat, to making sure all the Thai lads at the gym went to school to get an education. You were a second father to many.
We will miss your smile. We will miss seeing your dogs run up to you for a pet on the head. We will miss your stories and conversations about Muaythai and life. We will miss you in our corner. We will miss you Andy.
No more suffering.
Tony Manoharan is an owner and coach at Diamond Muaythai & Fitness, located in Toronto, Ontario. This post is a part of a larger collection of pieces written in memory of Andy Thomson. View the collection here.