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Focused Gunness gunning for title

Photograph by Akil SimmonsThe devil is in the detail: Gunness, right, delivers a kick during a training exercise with coach Morgan at Beyond Fitness

Jeron Gunness will venture into uncharted waters when he becomes the first Bermudian to compete at the Muay Thai Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, next month.

Gunness, who has entered the B Division for competitors with three to ten amateur bouts, admitted that the three-day tournament will be the biggest stage of his fight career.

The 25-year-old warmed up for the Muay Thai Classic with a comfortable win over Josh Phady, of the MAS Academy of Martial Arts, Ontario, in a kickboxing bout at Fight Night XVII at Berkeley Institute last month.

He said that he hoped to help raise the sport’s profile on the Island by making a triumphant return to Bermuda from the “Hawkeye State” with the Division B title.

“I’ve never done a tournament like this, so it’s going to be a big test for me,” said Gunness, who will represent the newly formed Bermuda Amateur Muay Thai Association (BAMA) based at Beyond Fitness on Par-la-Ville Road.

“My expectations are to have fun, enjoy the experience and hopefully bring back the belt.

“That would really put my name out there and be another step towards turning professional.

“It would be great for me, BAMA and Bermuda.”

Gunness said that leaving no stone unturned in his quest to develop his Muay Thai skills had almost become an obsession.

He sacrificed six weeks of vacation time to prepare for his bout against Phady by training under renowned coach Kit Ruddock and the American Killer Bees team in Florida.

“I can’t say that Muay Thai is my religion, but it is a way of life for me in terms of my diet, my sleeping pattern, my posture,” said Gunness, who started competing in combat sports at 18 and has a 2-0 record in boxing and 4-2 in kickboxing.

Although Muay Thai is taught at other gyms in Bermuda, BAMA is the only organisation dedicated solely to teaching the sport that is often referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes.

Gunness, who competed in Malaysia for the Bermuda Sanshou Association a few years ago, said that Muay Thai was far more than simply “beating people up”.

He helped establish BAMA — a charitable organisation — with Chuck Morgan, the president of the association, in November and hopes other gyms will come on board and compete internationally under the BAMA banner.

“People keep coming [to Beyond Fitness] and having fun,” said Gunness, who is also a BAMA coach. “Muay Thai isn’t just about fighting and beating up an opponent.

“We had a barbecue the other week and went to watch Fight Night to support each other. It’s not just about getting in the ring — people can come and just have fun.

“BAMA is not just for Beyond Fitness; it’s for all the gyms, especially in terms of competing internationally, so I hope the other dojos will come and train with us.”

Morgan, 36, who has competed in two amateur boxing bouts on the Island, said that BAMA had already received several invitations from the World Muay Thai Organisation to compete overseas.

He hopped that with greater financial support, BAMA fighters such as Gunness would be able test themselves at highly regarded overseas tournaments on a more regular basis.

“BAMA is only about six-months old and we’re trying to raise a bit of money to help Jeron compete in these types of tournaments,” said Morgan, a certified coach under Ajarn Buck — a Muay Thai instructor in the United States.

“We keep getting invited to overseas tournaments in Mexico and Thailand, but we can’t afford to go at the moment.”

Morgan said that BAMA had 15 to 20 members and trained four nights a week as well as Saturdays at Beyond Fitness.

“There are other guys that do Muay Thai in Bermuda but there wasn’t a national association,” said Morgan, whose added that BAMA had received guidance from Kru Chris Kew and Kru Joe Marchand, who regularly bring fighters from their Fifth Round Martial Arts Academy in Ontario to compete in Bermuda. “Our main aim is simply to try and build the sport in Bermuda.”

The Muay Thai Classic will be held from June 26 to 28.

For details about BAMA contactchuck@beyondfitbda.com or visit www.facebook.com/bermudamuaythai.