Gifford's world title bid hangs in balance
JAKE GIFFORD was all smiles after winning the Muay Thai British Open Championship under-10s title in just his first competition.
But the nine-year-old is anxiously waiting to find out if he will qualify to compete in the Youth World Thai Boxing Championships in Bangkok in August.
Gifford only started training on a regular basis last summer, after returning from the Thailand capital on holiday.
The trip inspired the Trosnant Junior School pupil to begin attend classes at Gorilla Muay Thai, in Southampton.
Gifford trains three times a week and his hard work and dedication has seen him reap the rewards.
In his maiden tournament, the Havant fighter captured the British title, in Knutsford, in April.
He won all three rounds in the final comfortably.
His dad, Luke, revealed he did not know how his son would handle the pressure going into the competition.
But he was impressed with what he saw from a rising star in the sport.
Gifford Snr said: ‘I wasn’t sure if he would cope with the pressure.
‘But I was very impressed by his performance and he did very well.
‘It was his first major final he has been in and Jake fought so well under pressure.
‘There were boys who have fought at a very high standard and abroad.
‘He was the underdog going into the final. He faced a very experienced boy from a gym that has produced countless world champions throughout the years.
‘Jake remained composed and performed superbly. He won all three rounds on the judges’ scorecards.
‘Jake did everything he was told to do by listening to his coaches and stuck to the game plan.’
However, Gifford is not guaranteed a place to compete against the best fighters of his age group in Bangkok.
UK Muay Thai rules state fighters must be aged 10 and above, but are currently pondering whether to make an exception to the current law.
Gifford Snr believes if his son is given the green light, his experience training in Thailand will stand him in good stead.
But he reckons the youngster has already achieved a lot more than what was expected.
‘The trip to Thailand really inspired Jake,’ Gifford Snr added.
‘To train with the native coaches gave him plenty of encouragement.
‘They could see his potential and said he should carry on.
‘All of his coaches were impressed with him.
‘He was more gifted and picked up techniques you normally have to drill into children.
‘His experience there will definitely stand him in good stead if he’s picked.
‘It’s a different calibre and is their national sport – it’s like football over here.
‘The children start at such a young age.
‘Even still, it’s great he’s won the most prestigious tournament in Britain.’