To win one fight is hard. To win two fights in one night is even harder. But to win two fights in one night and take on two of Victoria’s best lightweight fighters represents an almost insurmountable task. This is the challenge that awaits Lee ‘Hard As’ Fook (18-12-0) on Saturday night as he prepares to take part in a 4-Man eliminator tournament at Warriors Way 21.
Living and training out of Canberra, the current World Muay Thai Council (WMC) NSW Junior Welterweight Champion travels south looking to add two more scalps to his extensive fight record and go back to the nation’s capital $5000 richer.
Not known for its extensive list of gyms, fighters and promotions, the Australian Capital Territory can be a challenging place for a top muay thai fighter in Australia. With so few shows each year, it is often up to individual fighters to find opportunities to test themselves against other high-quality opposition. Talking to Fight News Australia in the leadup to the bout, Fook said that this was just a normal part of life as a Canberran fighter.
“In Canberra, there just isn’t the same calibre of fight shows like other cities and states have. It can make it hard to get matches. It costs money to fly and accommodate fighters interstate, and promoters often have a lot of local talent close by to choose from”.
“I don’t mind travelling to shows, win or lose the trip will always have good memories to go with it. I’ve been to a lot of places that I would never have gone to, had it not been for muay thai”.
Fook comes to Melbourne having lost his last fight via a points decision to Glory fighter Quade Taranaki just under a month ago and will be keen to get back in the winner’s circle come Saturday night. Training for the eliminator, Fook said that he’d been working hard and was ready for any eventuality that a one-night-only tournament can bring.
“I recently fought on Knees of Fury in New Zealand under K1 rules, so leading up to that I did a lot of work on my boxing, leaving the elbows out for a little bit. But now it’s back to the good stuff (elbows)”.
Asked whether the prospect of fighting twice in one night had changed his training regime, Fook was quick to point out his past tournament experience both at a national and international level.
“I’ve fought in the Muay Thai Australia National Championships and the IFMA World Championships a few times now, and for those events, you can fight more than once in a day, and in my weight division, you usually have to fight multiple days in a row”.
Whether previous experience with the tournament format will give Fook an advantage over his opponents come Saturday night remains to be seen, with each possessing a formidable skill set and impressive fight resumes.
Hailing from Victoria, all three fighters are considered not only some of the top lightweight fighters locally, but also nationwide. One of those potential opponents, Ramesh Habib, is no stranger to Fook, with both fighters already having battled in August of 2017 with the close decision going the way of Habib.
“It was a good back and forth fight. He did well with his push kicks and range, and that may have tipped him over to get the win. I’d be keen to fight Ramesh again, he’s a classy fighter”.
The other two fighters in the tournament, River Daz and Indigo Boyd, both represent an opportunity to knock off two of Victoria’s best, with Fook relishing the chance to finally be matched against either.
“I think both boys would be a good fight for me, both with different challenges to get past. I’ve been pretty close to getting matches with them recently, so it would be good to finally see one or both happen. I’d love to draw River for the first round of the tournament”.
With the calibre of fighters he will be matched up against on Saturday night, Fook will need to dig deep and replicate some of the raw power and aggression that has made him such a fan favourite over the years.
While the moniker ‘Hard As’ fits so well with his last name, it’s his past fights that have gone a long way to solidifying the name and what it represents. Seen as an aggressive, forward-moving fighter who is partial to an elbow or two, Fook’s fight career is littered with countless examples of the incredibly tough and resilient athlete he is.
The 2016 International Muay Thai Federation Amateur (IFMA) World Championships were one such example, when he was dropped three times within two rounds, yet still managed to rally and defeat his opponent, Turkmen Nurgeldi Taayer, with an elbow stoppage late in the second round.
With the prospect of big paydays in Australian muay thai a rare occurrence, if not a pipe dream, fighters in Australia need to be fueled by more than the chance for a quick knockout and an envelope with a dollar or two. For most, life as a professional fighter in Australia is about juggling a day job and fitting in as much training as they can. For Fook, the chance to jump in the ring and prove himself runs much deeper than that.
“I’ve never really been a fighter that has thought ‘I want this and that from the sport’. I just want to fight good opponents and learn as much as I can along the way”.
“There’s just something inside me that wants to fight and train hard. I don’t have the best record or a bunch of titles, but when I’m in the ring I’m going to fight as hard as I can. It doesn’t matter how rough it has been in the lead up to a fight when I’m in there, I’m loving it. I believe some people are just meant to fight”.