Something truly special happened last Saturday night in Toronto when the partnership between SHEspars and Back Forward Kick Productions coalesced with the overwhelming support of the Ontario Muay Thai community to produce SHEfights, a world class all female amateur Muay Thai event in support of International Women’s Day. Over 600 people from all over Ontario and the US filled the Toronto Estonian House to watch 26 of the finest female talent in amateur Muay Thai throw down.
The event was so much more than a fight card. It was an experience to behold. The theatre setting was intimate and amplified the crowd’s energy. Rows of seating around the ring turned into standing room along the perimeter, offering great vantage points of the action no matter where you had the good fortune of being a spectator from. Every gym came out and represented their respective schools en masse. The overwhelming amount of energy inside the venue was certainly tangible.
It used to be the case that the saying, “fight like a girl” carried a negative connotation. This is no longer the case thanks to the growing list of talented female fighters in Muay Thai, especially those that participated on Saturday. There were some notable moments throughout the event that deserve an honourable mention. Thalia Benson (TKO Fighting Arts), Brooklyn Greer (Kawartha Combat), Sophia Elia (Muay Thai Niagara), Rayanna Santiago (Milton Muay Thai), Julia Wilson (Loyalist Martial Arts), Brianna Kellum (TKO), Emma Redeye (Niagara), Sahila Subendran (York Muay Thai), Laura Chiaravalloti (Krudar), Fiona Wong (WOLF Academy), Kathleen Stanley (Old School Muay Thai), and Brenda Vargas (Lanna MMA) all made their out of house debuts on Saturday. They are the future of the sport, and did an amazing job of representing themselves and their schools like true Muay Thai ambassadors.
Vanessa De Belen from Kombat Arts and Laura Chiaravalloti of Krudar both won by referee stoppage. Brenda Vargas, who made her out of house debut against Effie Chan from Southside won a narrow split decision victory against one of the toughest fighters in the GTA. In the first round Brenda made it clear to Chan that she wasn’t going to be pushed around against the pressure fighter. Brenda engaged well in the clinch, and used her southpaw weapons to keep Effie moving backward. In the second round, Chan knew that she had to push the pace against Vargas. She threw everything she had at Brenda and won the second round. Vargas knew that she had to score often against Effie if she was going to come out victorious. A teep from Brenda in the third round put Effie on the mat, which may have secured the round and the split decision victory for Vargas. At the end of the night, both Brenda and Effie received a deserved Fight of The Night honour from the promoters.
The main event was an absolute highlight reel fight. One of the GTAs most skilled fighters, Yumiko Kawano of Krudar took on Janet Todd from Boxing Works in the United States. The screaming fans almost blew down the walls of the Estonian House as Kawano and Todd traded strikes in their Elite Open Class matchup. When the dust settled, it was Yumiko who came out victorious, with Todd earning herself a ton of admiration from the local fans. If your eyes were closed for that fight, you’d think you were at a rock concert.
Women in sport has always been met with criticism, snickering, and it’s share of obstacles, and this is no different for the status of women in Muay Thai. Female Nak Muays all over the world continue to fight for an equal place in the big stadiums internationally. Thanks to ambassadors like Ashley Nichols, Janice Lyn (both who were in attendance), Candice Mitchell, Taylor McClatchie and Muay Thai Ontario President Kru Yai Jenypher Lanthier, the margin has slowly been shrinking. With the help of promoters like Back Forward Kick Productions, and grassroots programs like SHEspars, the Muay Thai community can collectively work together to continue helping women realize their full potential in both sport and society.
To know more about the promotion and amateur Muay Thai in Ontario, please visit www.backforwardkick.com www.muaythaiontario.org, and the SHEspars Facebook Page. We are very excited for more events like these. Please share your stories and pictures with us if you were lucky enough to be in attendance.