A British Teenager Is Testing Himself at Bangkok’s Biggest Stadiums

Fightland Blog

By James Goyder

Photo via Flickr user ayngelina

At an age where most boys are busy studying for their final school exams or finding a first job Daniel McGowan has a very different set of priorities. This English 18 year old has moved to Bangkok to train alongside some of the top Muay Thai fighters in the world and test himself on the most competitive stage in the sport.

McGowan recently won a decision against Dawdung Boribhatburirum on a Petchviset event at Rajdamnern Stadium (you can see the fight here) and is one of very few foreign fighters to have ever been featured on the main card by a major promotion at this famous venue.

He’s already got a huge collection of belts and awards from competing in England but McGowan wanted to step outside of his comfort zone and see if he could cut it on the most competitive Muay Thai scene of all,

“I believe to truly be the best in this sport you got to come to Thailand and fight the best of the best. The list of achievements I’ve achieved in Muay Thai in the UK are wicked but I won’t be happy until I know I’m mixing it at the top in the two main stadiums in Thailand I think I can go the whole way and do something no one except two or three foreigners have done here that’s why I chose to move here.”

McGowan has a head start when it comes to competing in Rajdamnern and Lumpinee, the most competitive stages in the Muay Thai world, because he trains at the Petyindee Gym alongside some of the finest fighters of the past decade.

Photo courtesy of Yokkao Boxing by Michael Howarth

McGowan had been a paying customer at Petyindee for several years and represented the gym a few times but was still surprised when the opportunity arose to become the only non Thai on the fight team there,

“I’d been training at Petyindee for around three years and I had a few fights for them in Lumpinee and won every time. I was planning to move here for a long period so asked the manager if there was any discount I could have for long term stay and he then he replied and said he would sponsor me.’

Among McGowan’s current team mates and training partners are some of the most recognizable fighters in the sport,

“I couldn’t believe I would be fighting under the same name as the best fighters in Thailand like Nong O, Sam A and Petmorokot it’s a dream come true. I stay on the top floor of the gym where all the fighters stay, that’s part of the sponsorship and I love life here.”

While McGowan has access to the type of training which most Western fighters could only dream of he admits that at times it is tough to try and keep pace with some of the sport’s pound for pound kings every day,

“It’s hard on the body training intensely for four to five weeks twice a day before a fight but then I remind myself I could be stuck in minus three degrees in England waiting for a bus to go work so I can’t complain! I miss my family, girlfriend and friends but these are the sacrifices I have to make to be the best in the world.”

Image of Lumpinee Stadium via Flickr user Mark & Andrea Busse

McGowan’s training partners include Lumpinee champions both past and present and he says that one former ‘fighter of the year’ made a special effort to prepare him for his most recent fight,

“Nong O really helped me out for my last fight, he took me under his wing and sparred with me and clinched with me and corrected things I was doing wrong. He is my hero so it meant a lot for him to do that. Sharing the ring with some of these fighters, it’s a bit surreal.”

Nong-O has won Lumpinee titles in four separate divisions and has acquired an enormous collection of belts, trophies and tournament wins in a career which has seen him fight well over 300 times.

McGowan can’t quite compete in terms of silverware but the teenager has already made his mark on the Muay Thai scene in the UK,

“I won three junior world titles and ranked the UK’s number one bantamweight and just won UK ‘Fighter of the Year’ for 2014.”

This might represent an impressive haul for a fighter who has yet to turn 19 but McGowan has his sights set on starting to make a name for himself in Thailand,

“I want to hit the top ten at my weight class in the stadiums in Bangkok and my end goal would be to collect the stadium belt. That will take a lot of hard work and I’ll be happy if I’m even in the mix with the top fighters but that is my life time goal.”

McGowan gets a purse of approximately 600 USD per fight in Thailand so he isn’t making a fortune out of Muay Thai just yet but says that it is not the money which motivates him,

“I love knowing people like watching my fights. We don’t get paid a lot so when people in Thailand and around the world come up to me saying how they’re a big fan is wicked and reminds me when times are hard why I love doing this so much.”

McGowan’s next fight is on January 26th when he will be facing experienced Thai Yusuke Excidicalgym at Rajadamnern Stadium.


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The Dark Side of Muay Thai in Thailand

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