Monday, September 25, 2017

Bardoe steps into limelight on Yangon’s big stage

Sean Bardoe spars with Shan Ko at their gym in Mayangone township last week.  Stuart Deed / The Myanmar TimesSean Bardoe spars with Shan Ko at their gym in Mayangone township last week. Stuart Deed / The Myanmar Times

Last time British kickboxer Sean Bardoe stepped into the ring in a competitive bout he emerged with a draw against his older and lighter opponent at a celebration of Kayin New Year in Yangon.

But when Bardoe ventures onto the canvas on August 12 he’ll be fighting a veteran fighter and at one of Yangon’s biggest arenas, packed with serious boxing fans.

His opponent will be Khun Kyaw Swe, a fighter with an aggressive reputation and Bardoe admitted to nerves in the lead up to the fight.

“I wouldn’t have minded fighting in Magwe or Pathein or in one of the provinces with a smaller venue but obviously being in Yangon at a large stadium it’s a lot more pressure,” he said last week.

“Even though there was probably 5000 people at the Kayin New Year fight [last December] it wasn’t so bad because it was like a local atmosphere, which was good. This time there will be a lot more people watching and a lot more serious boxing fans,” he added.

While Bardoe is going to enter the fight weighing about 160 pounds – about 12 pounds lighter than his opponent – he’s in excellent good shape for a 42-year-old.

Bardoe trains up to six days a week with coach Win Zin Oo, former freeweight champion Lone Chaw and up-and-coming fighter Shan Ko at Win Zin Oo’s house and gym in Mayangone township.

During a training session on July 21, Bardoe hustled easily through three 3-minute rounds of sparring with Shan Ko – a much younger man with a long reach and quick feet.

Bardoe will undoubtedly enter the fight with a few niggles – a sore muscle in his calf or a toe injury – but he’s fit, much fitter than a non-professional fighter has any right to be.

In fact, it’s hard not to escape the feeling that Bardoe is playing a few mind games to establish himself as the underdog.

Adding to the pressure of the venue and big crowd on Bardoe will be the knowledge that several television crews have their cameras honed on him.

“I’m real nervous about this one because it’s at a big stadium in Yangon, it’s going to be on television and we’re also doing a documentary about the club and Lone Chaw, Shan Ko and myself for Channel NewsAsia, which is based in Singapore,” Bardoe said.

Channel NewsAsia television has been shooting a documentary on Bardoe for the past two months and will be there to document the man in action. The fight will also be taped by at least one domestic television station, which means win, lose or draw Bardoe will leave the ring with his star status elevated even further.

Bardoe said having the film crew shadowing him had, at times, been exhausting.

“It was interesting and sometimes you have to do things a few times to get it on camera,” he said.

“It’s a bit tough when you’ve done a 3-minute round [of sparring] and they say ‘no, no, no can you do it again, can you keep going’ and the round goes on and on.

“And when you’re actually exhausted they want to ask you questions. You can hardly talk at times but it’s been interesting to see how documentaries are made,” he added.

The Channel NewsAsia documentary will broadcast Myanmar traditional boxing – letwhay – to the 20 nations in the network in October after two further fights by Shan Ko and Lone Chaw in September.

Win Zin Oo described Khun Kyaw Swe as a “veteran” fighter who also has plenty of experience on the other side of the ropes.

“His career as a fighter was about seven or eight years but he has been a boxing coach for about 12 years,” Win Zin Oo said.

“He’s a veteran but also a professional with a big name. And I’m sure he’ll come into the fight in good shape because he’s very serious,” he added.

Win Zin Oo, however, refused to predict a winner.

“I’m not an astrologer … but we’re doing our best and Sean is doing his best to be ready.”

Bardoe agreed that it was tough to predict who would emerge victorious but was wary of dropping his guard.

“In a boxing fight somebody can beat the hell out of the other guy for four and a half rounds and then get knocked out heading into the time out for the fifth round,” he said.

“I’m just hoping that I put on a good fight and represent our club and gym. Win or lose as long as it’s a good fight I’ll be happy.”

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