By Robert Samborsky
From a very early age, in fact as long as I remember myself, I was fascinated with Martial Arts. As a teenager I took up wrestling and judo, but it was not for me as I enjoyed the striking aspect a lot more. So at the age of 14 I took up Boxing. I boxed for a few years and wasn’t half bad, winning all of the few fights I had (it wasn’t anything on a very high level) but to me it was an accomplishment and I really liked it. I liked it all... the training, the discipline and of course the fighting itself.
Then as it often happens in life, I moved to another country, started college, got new friends, new girlfriends... And it was over...
For many years my focus was career, business, marriage, child, but the desire to compete was still there. At the age of 36 I decided to go back to training, but this time with a twist. I decided to try a whole new sport: Muay Thai. Although at first it was just to train, very soon it turned into a desire to compete.
Of course I heard things such as “you have no chance”, “it’s crazy”, “you're too old”... but being determined (or stubborn) I made a decision to go through with it and not let anyone or anything stop me. 6 weeks before the intended fight I suffered a major injury; I tore my left quadriceps muscle, which pretty much sealed the deal that I would never compete. Only the recovery was projected to take 12 to 18 months.
I could not live with the thought that all the training, all the time invested was for nothing. So I rushed the recovery and ended up in the ring 7.5 months after my surgery to repair my injury. The result was exactly what it was supposed to be: a disaster. Loss! My first loss. I hated it. It was hard to deal with for a long time. And of course the “well wishers” were saying many things; I wasn't good, I was too old, I embarrassed myself, etc. To hear those things knowing how much work was put into it was tough, to say the least. It was especially tough since my daughter was there throughout the whole thing. To her I was the best, her hero, her fight and soccer buddy. And it was important for me to show her that her dad is not a loser and that he is not crazy. I wanted to prove that he is just a determined, hardworking man that has no "quit" in him. I wanted her to have the type of role model I never had.
So after my loss, the training started again, but this time with more aggression and determination. I eliminated certain negative people from my life and surrounded myself with the best. A few fights and wins followed, but none of them could eclipse the failure. They were dull, they brought no satisfaction or level of accomplishment. I was petrified by failure and letting my girl down, so I wouldn’t have photos or videos or people in the audience that I cared about, as I couldn’t bear the thought of losing (and perhaps embarrassing myself and/or them) again.
Being 42 and clearly with time running out, I set my eyes on Florence, Italy as that's where the K-1 World’s Championships are taking place December 8-10, 2017. Besides training with Kaensak sor Ploenjot, Chris Tran and my sparring partner Jon Curtis, I brought in my good friend Pro Fighter Marc Seno and Boxing Hall of Famer Sal Lopez to help polish my boxing. I also decided to train in Thailand for a week or two leading up to the fight, to really give it my all.
Then an unexpected opportunity arose - to fight at Phuket’s number one Muay Thai Stadium - Bangla! Scary, but very tempting. Couldn’t say NO to that. My friend IFBB Pro Athlete Irina Veselova wanted to go on vacation, so I suggested perhaps Thailand. She jumped on the opportunity and I saw it as a chance at redemption and finally facing my fear of having someone in the audience.
Another setback! 2 weeks before the flight I sustained an oblique injury, which was basically minor tears that resulted in bad bruising and swelling. The verdict by doctors and coaches Kaensak, Chris, Marc was no contact and light training, as not to jeopardize Italy. Of course I said "yes" to them, but I knew that an opportunity like that would not come around again so the Bangla Stadium fight was definitely happening, no matter what. I always hated liars and now I was one; lying to my coaches, my family, my friends. But there was no other option. Not this time.
On 10/29 I made it! I fought at Bangla Stadium and won in the third round by knockout against an experienced Thai fighter, who was not only more experienced but also younger and far more accomplished.
The main thing is that I had a fan in the audience taking photos and rooting for me. Following the fight I had people taking photos with me, giving me props. It felt incredible. I felt redemption, I felt accomplished, but most importantly I had a 13 year old fan at home, and she was the only one that knew her dad was in the ring when nobody else knew, even though a few might have had their suspicions.But I'm not done yet...so Jess... this is for you!
NEXT STOP - FLORENCE, ITALY ??