There are students of Pele’s in his gym that hold as many as fourteen championship belts for one person. The Thai’s came over in the late seventies and brought their art with them. For the more than twenty years that Muay Thai has been in this country, we have seen many, many talented fighters step into the ring. Of those talented fighters, only a few really made it to world level. We know the names of Master Toddy, Master Sken ,and Master Woody the precursors who sowed the seeds of Muay Thai in this country, buit what of their students? The ones that would carry the Muay Thai legacy still further here in the West.
So we took the opportunity when it came to talk to Pele but hopefully from a different angle. Points such as, why he created the beastmaster gym, where the name came from, and his viewpoint thus far in his personal journey on the road of Thai Boxing.
Peter Lewis. "Pele, just staying with the major ones,What are the titles you hold?
Pele, “ W.K.A. Light Middleweight World Champion, W.A.K.O. Pro Light Middleweight World Champion, I.T.B.F. World Champion ,which is associated with the Thai’s and was run by Master Toddy, that belt outweighs everything because it was associated with the Thai’s. The Thai’s gave me the decision against the Thai guy who had come over with the team to fight for the world title, his name was Tippitat. I also hold several British titles.
Peter Lewis”Of the three World titles, what would you say was your hardest fight?”
Pele. “That would be Tippitat the Thai, he was a very big Thai, very tall and he came to win. Even though I beat him, for five rounds he chased me all around the ring, it wasn’t an easy fight. So that was my hardest fight, I had to carve out every point in every round. It was the fittest I’d ever been, but I had to work extra hard in all the rounds to stay a couple of steps ahead of the Thai because he came at me in every round. I hit him with everything and dropped him with stuff, but he just kept getting up and kept on coming for five rounds. I worked so hard in that fight, after I got presented with the belt I just wanted to get out of the ring, I was totally wasted. After I got out of the ring and went backstage I was throwing up, I’d worked so hard.”
Peter Lewis.”Right, so that was the toughest fight of your career, can you remember a week before the fight, the day before the fight, psychologically how were you? Did you have any doubts about yourself? I mean this guy obviously came with a pedigree.”
Pele. “Well the one thing I never do is to take anyone for granted, but at the same time when I fight I never go into the ring with doubts. I always go into the ring with the thought that if I mess up or if I don’t train hard the guy will beat me no problem, but I never step into the ring with the thought that the guy can beat me. Psychologically I’m psyched out long before I step into the ring otherwise I wouldn’t step in there.”
Peter Lewis.”I only bring this up, because this guy came with a pedigree, top fighter, a big, tough Thai which is unusual because they’re usually small and wiry. On top of that you’re fighting in his art against a guy whose been doing it all his life, so psychologically there was a lot going against you. So to go in and beat him must have been accolade beyond belief?”
Pele.” Yes your right, the fight on paper could have seemed a little daunting to say the least. But I just thought to myself, the judges are Thai and the referee’s Thai so I’m going to be fighting against everybody. My belief in myself and my own capabilities was greater than the task at hand. And the Thai’s are human beings just like the rest of us, it’s just that it’s their art and they’re tough and for me they are the best, but if you train hard enough and work hard enough, you can beat them.”
Peter Lewis.”Okay lets go back to the very beginning for a moment. What got you into it? (Thai Boxing) and What age were you?”
Pele. “Well Ronnie Green, my best friend, got me into it. I used to play a lot of football, I was football mad, that’s where I got my nickname from ‘Pele’. I actually did a trial for Manchester City. I was always getting injured and being kicked and bruised. Ronnie said, ‘look at me I’m fighting in the ring and I’m not getting as injured as you are’ Why don’t you come and train with me in Muay Thai. This was at Master Toddy’s gym in Manchester. At first I actually went down there to the gym to teach Judo because I did a lot of Judo at the time, but Judo went out of the window when I fell in love with Thai boxing. When I first saw it I thought, I could do that because I’m pretty strong-willed.”
Peter Lewis.”When was the very first time you stepped into the ring, and do you remember it well?”
Pele.”Yes, it was an inter-club fight, a guy from Ronnie’s gym in Preston, but this guy had had about twenty-six full contact fights behind him, but he hadn’t fought Thai-boxing and neither had I, I hadn’t even fought in a ring before. I got in and I can remember this guy starts hitting me, bam, bam and he’s was knocking me all over the place and I’m thinking jeeze, this isn’t like sparring, god what am I doing here. For the first minute and a half, I was bewildered, he was knocking me backwards and forwards. It was like meeting an oncoming express train. And then I suddenly realised, I’m in a fight, I mean you fight for your life kind of thing. In the last thirty seconds I switched on, I came back into the fight and started pushing back and then in the second round I stopped him, stopped him with body kicks. So I won my first fight and that’s where I got my taste for it.”
Peter Lewis.”A lot has been said over the years in magazine fight reports about your more than successful career. Then you reached the stage when you decided to pack it in. How did that decision arise?”
Pele.” When I became World Champion to be very honest a lot of the fights weren’t coming my way, I think probably because I wasn’t in the right place and I wasn’t working with the right people. A lot of people in the country at my weight were getting the fights that I wasn’t being offered even though I was better than anyone in the country at my weight at that time. I was the World Champion and the fights should have gone to me. I think a lot of it was to do with politics and controlling the fighters.To me the people in power don’t do it right, they don’t get the best fighters, if you’re alright with them they look after you and I think that’s all wrong. In Thai boxing there should be a proper governing body running good fighters and in this country we have a lot of good fighters, but it isn’t run properly and I feel more could be done.”
“ My view is, if you govern the sport properly you don’t need as many organisations. There are so many different organisations all saying that they are the best and I think that affects the sport, it affects the quality of fighters. You have about four main organisations and everyone is a British Champion. A lot of the time it’s if your face fits – which is wrong, it should be down to skill and talent, pure and simple, not a question of if your face fits with a person they will use you and if it doesn’t fit, you’re out. So with numerous international titles and three world titles under my belt I decided that was it, I’d had enough.”
Peter Lewis.”So after your third world title you decided to stop.You obviously already had a club running then anyway?
Pele.”Yes I used to run Sale West Thai-boxing club (in Cheshire) whilst I was still fighting and ran it for fifteen years, it was a very successful club and produced a lot of champions
Peter Lewis.”So did you think right I’ve chucked it now, I’m going to concentrate all my efforts on my club?”
Pele.”I never actually said to myself, I’ve chucked it. You see a lot of people who see that I’m not on the scene think I’ve retired. I never officially retired, I just stopped fighting and was concentrating on the gym. People didn’t offer me fights, not because I couldn’t fight, but because of favouritism, you know, the face fitting and all that. I’m quite outspoken, but I’m a man of my word, my word is my contract, I don’t let people down and if I say I’m going to do something, I do it.”
Peter Lewis.”So where did the name ‘Beastmaster’ come from?”
Pele. “The name ‘Beastmaster’ actually came from one of my students from Leeds. I used to get lots and lots of people knocking on the gym door asking me to train them. They’d been training in Thai-boxing elsewhere and wanted me to polish them up and finish them off then I’d turn them out as better fighters who even if they got beat, always looked good, they were defeated in style, no tempers and no tantrums, so hence the name ‘Beastmaster’. Two years ago I decided to go full-time with it, before then it had only been part-time, I decided to be a full-time martial arts instructor. I got a place in Altrincham, (in Cheshire) opened up there, and called the gym ‘Beastmaster Gym’ from the nick-name that had been given to me. I had a new gym with a new name in a new town, I looked upon it as a blank sheet of paper to start again doing it my way, in my style.”
Peter Lewis..”Obviously a lot of people followed you from the old Sale West Club?”
Pele.”Well not all the champions. I think there was a lot of jealousy going on. I had some good fighters coming to the gym, but there was jealousy between them so they didn’t follow me, but to be quite honest, one by one they started to come back.”
Peter Lewis.”Who was your first world champion from your new club?”
Pele.”One of my first would be Mary Hart she became the world W.P.K.L. Thai-boxing champion, that’s World Professional Kickboxing League. She’s still fighting, she has a W.K.A. European title now as well. Amy Tomkinson has been with me since she was six years old, she’s now fourteen and has thirteen championship belts so far, I see Amy as a prospective world champion, nearly a decade down the line she still has the hunger for it. Warren Brown was already a world champion when he came to my gym, but recognised that my skills could improve him further, that says a lot for his character. He came to me as a W.A.K.O. Pro World Champion and he’s achieved another World title since joining me, so he now has two.”
“ I’ve also got Frankie Udders, who’s just won an I.S.K.A. World title, also Kevin Harper who won the W.K.A. World title which was a title that I’d fought for some years ago in Coventry and lost. It was the same guy who beat me that fought Kev Harper, but Kev beat him. I’ve got Rebecca Maxwell, she won a junior world title at a young age which she kept, she’s never been beaten, she’s nearly sixteen now, but she’s still got a world title that she’s kept. Then there’s Gavin Sterritt who’s up and coming, he’s a European champion and also Patricia McCarey who is the British and Commonwealth champion, in kickboxing and Thai.”
Peter Lewis.” Pele, you were a part product of Ronnie Greene and Master Toddy. Master Toddy was always known for his house of champions, producing more champions than anybody else. It’s almost like you’ve stepped into, not his footsteps as such because you’re your own man, but in the mould of Master Toddy in producing good fighters.”
Pele.”You’ll find on the circuit that people who have successful clubs are the ones who trained with Master Toddy. It’s Master Toddy’s legacy. Whatever he did, he did it right because his people are producing good fighters.”
Peter Lewis.” Where do you see yourself heading ,say over the next five years?”
Pele.”Well we’ve stepped into the water and wet our feet with promotions and had several very successful ones utilising fighters from different camps and gyms around the country. With my international contacts I’m now setting my sights on maybe staging an international show . But for the moment we’ll just take it one step at a time.”
been lucky for the fact that a lot of people have helped me get
where I am, good people, genuine people. So on a final note, I
would like to offer a special thanks to Frankie Udders, World
Champion for helping me with the photographs that illustrate
this article and to Louis Meschia and Graham Thompkinson the
Club reps for being behind us time and time again. And thanks to
the Accident Group for sponsoring Mary Hart. I will just leave
you with the comment, that you have not seen yet what the
Beastmaster Gym is really capable of. Just watch this space!”