A Walworth teenager has become the Thai boxing world champion holder after overpowering his closest rival in the ring on Saturday night.
John Haggerty, nineteen, finished off his 28-year-old opponent, Gery Bevetto from Italy, after three quick rounds at the Copthorne Hotel in Effingham.
The young gym instructor, who has mastered the obscure but deadly sport from his dad since the age of nine, said it was a “dream come true”.
Speaking to the News while recovering on Monday, John said: “I’m still buzzing, but it’s a massive weight off my shoulders.
“I had been training really hard: literally just sleep, eat, train, and repeat every day.
“But I couldn’t believe it took just three rounds. It was overwhelming.”
John said fighters from all over the world had come for fights between different weight classes on the night. But the 57kg local lad’s 9pm match was the main event for the 150-strong crowd watching.
Thai boxing, a combat sport where fighters exchange blows with knees and elbows as well as with kicks and punches, is known for being the most dangerous of the mainstream martial arts.
John has since heard his opponent was left needing stitches on his head from a hit with John’s elbow.
“When he went out the ring there was blood all over his face, but it’s kicking that I’m best at,” John said.
“I had been training three weeks before the big fight out in Thailand, and I often train where I work, at my dad’s gym, Team Underground LMA in Old Kent Road.
“After the fight my dad told me he could just tell from how hard I had been training that it was just going to be a walk in the park.”
As soon as the finishing bell rang, his mum and dad Lisa and John ran into the ring.
“We both got in there and I gave him a big hug and a kiss,” Lisa said.
“I’m absolutely over the moon, I’m well proud, he has dreamed of being the world champion for years.
“The atmosphere was brilliant, we had lots of friends and family all come down to cheer him on.
“Now he is just going to have a rest because he has worked so hard.”
John said: “I want to carry on doing this for as long as I can and get as many titles for different classes as I can.
“I love doing it. It’s a beautiful sport, it should be in the Olympics.”