Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Simon Marcus: The Fighting Prophet

by Flip English
With the population in the billions how does a man stand out? What must he do to make his name be remembered? Though there are many paths to celebrity not all of them are clean. Some are dark and dirty, demeaning and obscene, and those who choose to walk them lose respect and esteem. Despite all that, these devious directions were still taken by some to enter the pages of history. Notorious names like the infamous Hitler took such routes to reach it. But of course, his was a path true righteous men would not likely pick. Of the countless passages to prominence there are better ways to fame. Ways that don’t guilt the heart and where the clouds of regret don’t form. At seventeen and at a crossroad in his life, Simon Marcus contemplated his future from the cramped discomfort of a jail. He pondered for alternatives to steer him from the road of wrong, for a better way of life that did not risk his freedom, nothing like the one that had led to incarceration. What came to his rescue was Muay Thai, and since stepping forth in its direction he found his saving road, a path more righteous in reaching his dream, of being remembered, of becoming a legend. This is his story.

Simon’s pledge to pursue Muay Thai was decided eight years ago. Since then the credentials he earned justifies the choice correct. After three professional years Marcus accumulated an undefeated record of twenty-two wins and seventeen knockouts. So far his most highlighted year came in 2010 winning the Sports Accord Combat Games (81kg-Gold Medal). Also in 2010 at Northern Thailand and Thaphae Stadium, after topping competition he was crowned the title of Light Heavyweight Champion. Prior to turning pro in 2009 he was WKA’s North American Muay Thai Amateur Champ (Cruiser-Weight Division). In 2008 he won Silver from the World Amateur Muay Thai Competition. The previous year it was Gold he took home at the same event in Thailand. Trained under Ajahn Suchart, the Toronto native has also been featured in the Muay Thai Premier League. To top it off he is close friends with Buakaw Por Pramuk, a connection he made with the legend while training eight months at his gym: “As far as fighter's go I currently look up to Buakaw Por Pramuk. Reason being he is in my opinion the best in the world and is also the perfect example of how beautiful and effective Muay Thai is…I have never seen anybody in this sport work as hard as Buakaw. Not only that he also is the most disciplined fighter I have even witnessed.”

But Marcus doesn’t feel content with these achievements. To him they don’t speak enough for his relevance in the sport. To him what vouches for a successful career is rooted in self-assurance, in knowing that you have no equal as a fighter: “My dream to be at the top of the world is what keeps me hungry. When I prove to myself that I can defeat any man out of seven billion on this planet I will feel validated. Also when my name is known as one of the greatest Muay Thai fighters ever. In other words to become a Legend. At twenty-five years old he still has the youth to fulfill that vow he made. He also has the focus: “I set out to become the best in the world. It was a challenge that I set out to accomplish and have never looked back since.” After adopting that attitude these days he is a model for criminal reform. He is a living definition of inspiration, but what he stands for today is a product of hard work that took years to become.

Before his introduction to Muay Thai, Simon “Bad Bwoy” Marcus lived the reputation of a ruffian. From the time before his teens he was known for his love for combat: “I'm not exactly sure why but I loved the joy of fighting from as early as I can remember playing in the playground. I guess I loved the physicality and the challenge.” Since his elementary days Simon was a boy you could not entertain with education. Back when the WWE was still the WWF, Marcus exercised his fondness for wrestling by practicing moves on his peers, even when they were always not willing. As a wrestling aficionado it thrilled him more than academics. The respect he had for his idols ruled over the orders of his teachers: “As a young child I was very active and uninterested in school. From a young age I did not like to answer to authority and would very often find myself in the principal’s office for fighting or not listening to the teachers.” His confrontational ways led to frequent suspensions until he was finally discharged for fighting.

In seventh grade after his first expulsion he was forced to switch schools. But at his new schooling facility his habits were not resolved: “I remember getting into a fight the first day at the new school and suspended the second day and a few more times for the rest of that year.” He became a problematic student and caused ruckus when in the mood. It seemed that the only thing that cooled him was physical competition: “Although I was not focused in my school work and had poor grades I was always very interested in sports and excelled in track & field and cross country. This was a positive outlet for me and a way to use my energy for something constructive.” Though it helped to preoccupy his energy running had its limits. Simon on a track was like Tarzan outside his jungle, and time would reveal how ineffective it was in taming. In the tenth grade at the age of fifteen he was again expelled for fighting. It also marked his first flirtation with the law because with the expulsion came the charge of assault. But luck would intervene and spare him the repercussions. The litigation was later dropped and the incident only foreshadowed all the trouble that was to come.

But in retrospect, perhaps being banned from that school was a blessing from fate because at the new school he enrolled in he would meet his best friends. At the new schooling system he linked up with his future entourage, good buddies whom he still values today. When he was sixteen these guys were also responsible for his discovery of Muay Thai: “one of my best friends told me about a Thai Boxing gym up the street from the school we attended. So myself and twelve more of my friends from school decided to try it out. I fell in love with Muay Thai right away because I was finally learning the real art of fighting and building my body stronger than ever before.”

Getting a taste of Muay Thai was like a shark detecting blood. Marcus was aroused by the joy of it all. Like water to a fish the gym felt natural to Simon. Here was a sport where his talents could be applied, where his fighting spirit was encouraged and not punished like in school. It helped express his love for combat without compromising with the cops, without having to deal with the law. But though Muay Thai would become the field of his profession, when it was first served to him his stomach was full of distractions. His appetite was already busy with the hunger for another sport.

Around that time he was heavily involved in basketball and the star of the junior team. He favored the court over the ring since his skills for it were more developed. With Muay Thai he was still a novice and just learning to be a warrior. It was like asking him something rhetorical; majority playing time as a starter or become a bench player hoping for action? There was no questioning his preference. To allot more time for basketball his other passion would have to wait, and after about six weeks of attendance he stopped practicing Muay Thai. Siam No.1 gym and Ajahn Suchart were put on hold, and the blood the shark had tasted became lost in vast waters. It would take two more years to truly value the sport, to fully understand Muay Thai and appreciate its gift, for Marcus to find the direction to his destiny.

That moment came at a dark time in his life. A year later a seventeen year old Simon accounted more arrests, but this time he would not get a break. Due to violations of existing court conditions the usual bailout by one of his parents was an option removed. An order of confinement was issued which sent Simon to serve time.

Within the despairing walls of a cell at a prison for young offenders, Marcus thought deeply about his precarious future. He was at a fork in the road and quite conscious of his situation. He was in a do or die position; either mature from breaking laws or call his cell his future home. The reality was heartbreaking, but the dire circumstance he faced was nothing new to other inmates. Jail can make or break you if there is failure to reform, and for some, rather rising from the hole they stumble deeper into a bleaker ditch, and Marcus did not want that future to be his. As he searched his soul for solutions it was Muay Thai that spoke the most: “I had a lot of time to reflect on my life and made the decision that I wanted to be something better than yet another black youth in jail. I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life but one thing I knew was that I wanted to continue my Muay Thai training and was thrilled about the possibility of becoming a real fighter.” For someone born with a love for fighting, why not make it official and be a fighter for real? And so it was decided that Muay Thai would be his niche. It would also become his road to redemption, redeeming his failures with the law with his winnings in the ring.

Meanwhile, as Simon received his epiphany there was another gift to come. As he pleaded with luck for a second chance the gears of fortune were turning. Opportunity was working to extend him another deal, one that would restore his prior life of freedom. Eventually his court cases were resolved and freed him from detainment, and after serving a three month residency a new Simon would emerge. Following his release from the prison he relocated with his father. Moving outside the city in the outskirt of Toronto, Simon returned to school and made it to graduation. Aside from formal schooling he also pursued another study. Keeping his honor in the promise he made in prison, Marcus also continued his education of Muay Thai.

At the Siam No.1 gym he reestablished old connections, but his time there would be no distractions. Muay Thai would have authority in his life under the direction of his master: “Ajahn Suchart my trainer and mentor was somebody I respected a great deal and for the first time in my life I had no problem following orders from a real Muay Thai master.” Because of his new address the commute to his master was long. The bus ride each way was worth two hours but to him it did not matter. This was one of the sacrifices Marcus was willing to make, because at that point he was a student committed to the Art of Eight Limbs.

By age eighteen he was challenging himself to a transform, striving to grow from thug to fighter while keeping his aggression in the change: “I trained as hard as I could and attended the gym as much as possible and six months after that I had my first Muay Thai bout.” Though the fight was ruled a draw, after that first experience in the ring the rest was history. Tarzan returned to his jungle and the sea had fresh blood for the shark. He became commonplace in the gym like heavy bags and gloves. Marcus was focused with fusing techniques to his body, drilling them into bone with the marrow that makes his blood. So it would be part of his essence. Like a scientist in a lab he worked to merge himself with the sport, as if modifying genetics by grafting the atoms of Muay Thai. It seemed to work. The Muay Thai molecules bonded to his DNA and the process became a like positive mutation: “Since I've dedicated my life to become a martial artist it has changed my mind, body and life as a whole for the better.”

For helping establish his powers and tuning his talents, Ajahn Suchart became to Marcus what Professor X was to his X-Men: “In Muay Thai I look up to my trainer as a source of inspiration because he is a Master in the Art of Muay Thai. Even at his age of 52 he is still the strongest person I have observed in my life and continues to train and live the life of a true martial artist. For me he is the personification of a Master in the art of Muay Thai.” With rock-hard guidance from his Muay Thai master, Suchart served as a sharpening stone, helping Simon cut through the competition like they were beef for the butcher’s blade. Like Samurai steel he sliced through opponents, with some being the thickest tests a fresh fighter could encounter. He defeated some sharp opponents like Belgium’s Filip Verlinden (WKA World and European Champion and current MPL fighter), Cambodian Legend Eh Phutong, Japanese notable Ryuta Noji, and Russia’s Artem Vahitov, also a European and World Champ.

But to Marcus, despite defeating distinguished names, most fighters on the menu don’t appeal to his taste. Being true to his complex of an apex predator, he seeks to only challenge the best in the game, and for now the head he hungers for belongs to Artem Levin, the current crown block of his division’s pyramid: “I respect him as a fighter and know he is revered as the best in the world in my weight class. So to be the best I must beat the best.” But to acquire more leverage in securing that contest, he must first increase his power of negotiation, and to gain that influence means besting none other than Joe Schilling, the interim WBC Muay Thai Light Heavyweight World Champion.

Lion Fight Promotions "Battle in the Desert 5" is set for February 25th in Las Vegas and quickly becoming the hot event. Causing all the heat are warriors known for their vicious displays of violence: knock-out phenoms Simon Marcus and his next test in his quest to the top, Joe “Stitch’Em Up” Schilling. Through the Muay Thai community and among its fanatics the topic percolates with pleasure. In fight forums on the internet, the comments and remarks between fans of each fighter play out like a digital war. In the Muay Thai universe these two roam around like giant comets and asteroids. They are forces proven to be destructive demonstrated by plenty of colossal knockouts. But now the hands of destiny have driven their courses to collide, and when the path of a comet crosses the orbit of an asteroid the impact is always spectacular. So what does Marcus have to say about Battle in the Desert 5? What does he think is the reason behind the excitement of the main event? “Plain and simple, I will be the best, most well-rounded fighter Joe has ever fought. Also the fact that we both have high rates of KO`s and winning records build the atmosphere for an exciting match. Not to mention Joe has a big mouth and most of his opponents in the past have probably been intimidated by him. However I'm sure most people can tell that I am not one to be intimated.”

It would seem that with a statement like this, not only does Marcus know the art of combat but he is well-versed in verbal warfare as well. But as Simon suggests, the trash-talking is not to add hype but to speak his version of the truth. From his side of the fray, Simon says the fire he has spat is real and nothing faked: “Anything I said in regards to Joe I meant. I would not say I look down on him as a Muay Thai artist, however, for all the mouth Joe has in recent and past interviews I would say he needs to humble himself because the only world level opponent he has fought is Kaoklai. Or I guess I will need to humble him.” It’s unclear who instigated the criticizing between the sides, but at the heart of his debate Marcus is convinced that he is the more complete Nak Muay of the two: “I won’t get into specifics about Joe’s incompleteness. Nevertheless any person who knows and understands the Art of Muay Thai will understand my statement once they have watched Joe’s fights…But technically he is not as skilled or experienced as many top fighters with 100 plus fights I have fought from Europe.”

But if talk is dissected from the facts and we cut aside the taunts between them, after removing the ridicules that fuel the fan frenzy what is left for us to study is a showdown worth the interest. At the core of what gives this bout its clout of intrigue is the difference in style each fighter will bring. In military perspective, Schilling’s aggressive approach employs the Shock & Awe method. He leads with his ferocity bombarding with everything he's got. Contrasting that type of conduct is Simon’s smoother style of striking. How he behaves is more composed relying on timing and technique. Marcus is the strategic sniper and does more stalking between the two, and Schilling is heavy duty like the demo-man in the crew. But both the systems of their styles are still so lethal in the field, which is what is generating all the massive fan appeal. This will be a classic match up of style versus style, and essentially, it is a question of artillery accessory; which weapon will prove superior in winning their war: Simon’s sniper bullets or Joe’s demolition bombs?

But for all the things that give them distinction, what binds them in common is their valor in the ring. With reservations only for the glory of their cause they both have the heart of gung-ho Marines, fearing no man and no battle. Both are recognized by their nonchalance, wearing the faces of cool against the most dangerous of foes. And considering the caliber of confidence in their character, the victor of this fight will have earned a true badge of bravery. And if Muay Thai had its own Navy Seal, then that victor would be candidate for its Team Six Division.

But as to why he prefers his style over Joe’s, Marcus gives some clarity: “Muay Thai is an art and to rush into your opponent right off the bat can be dangerous.” To him it’s about strategy and his plan is to adapt. He feels out his fighters with a poker player’s eyes, reading his adversaries first before getting serious with his hands. His game is adjusted around the style of the fighter, because like in poker a player could be a bluffer or the kind who plays it straight, and how to win the game will depends on personality.

Though the action of their match won’t compare to that of cards, like in a poker competition these fighters had just up the ante. While their fight is not-title the matter of money can still be flexed, and recently that subject had been stretched. Raising the stakes to make the pot a lot bigger, Simon wagered his whole purse to entice Joe to bet the same. The gambit worked out and now the game is more interesting. With all purses all in, it is now a Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is bout. It will be like a poker match being fought in the physical, and after everything plays out at their Vegas venue the truth will be told.

February 25th will be a day of sincerity. There will be no excuses and no lies. The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel will be the perfect setting. Like some who visit Vegas they either go home two ways: a winner with all the cash or a loser who needs a loan. For two top ranking men still in the prime of their careers, this fight will speak the truth to the people. If Stitch’Em Up is victorious then it would kill the criticism; he is not over-rated and incomplete as Simon claims. And if Bad Bwoy gets his way then his calculations will prove correct, that indeed he is superior and deserve higher respect.

In a world plagued by propaganda and deceit, this fight will testify that truth still exists. This is what competition was designed for. It will settle the conflict of who is the badder man. The true prize in rivalry is the honesty it reveals, and for Marcus it is the reason for his love of the sport: “Muay Thai for me is the most honest way to express myself. Training hard for a fight and then facing another trained and skilled athlete pushes your mind and body to a whole other level. Then when you step into the ring regardless of what you or your opponent may say or do leading up to the fight the truth is always revealed.” With this admission he is clear with his position. He is like a fighting prophet, one who speaks the truth through the language of martial arts, battling through life to deliver one message, that he is a legend in the making. This is the prophecy that he fights to fulfill.

Simon winning this fight will add to his greatness. It will vouch for his relevance, speak the truth of his excellence, and prove that he is the badder of the two. This fight is a definitive point in his pursuit to make history. It will bring him closer to reaching his dream, of being remembered, of making his name stand out from a population of billions. For winning these types of fights is the essence of being a legend.

Editor’s Note:

Simon Marcus would like to make the following shout-outs: I would like to thank the most high for all the blessings in my life and the victory over Schilling. My family for all their support especially my mom and dad. My trainer Ajahn Suchart for all his time and energy he has invested in me. And I would like to shout out my city T-Dot (Toronto), the whole of Canada and the Muay Thai community. I would also like to shout out all my closest friends who believed in me from the start—you know who you are—all the Kru's and training partners that have helped me along the way. And Big Up to all my fans and supporters. Kru Miami for always having my back and best interests at heart. Also Big up's to my brothers Matt Embree and Ugli Sor Siam. Ester and the one Zion. Also a big thanks to Muay Thai Authority for giving me more exposure and growing the sport of Muay Thai. Big thanks to Lion Fight Promotions and the Muay Thai Premier league for featuring me in their shows. Sorry if I forgot anyone.
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