Vietnam's Tran Van Thao became the country's first professional boxer to win mutiple regional honors, including the title of "Asia’s Fighter of the Year" on Monday.
Thao, 26, became the first Vietnamesee fighter to win the Asia World Boxing Championship (WBC) belt in November 2017, and his name once again rang out at the 2018 Asia WBC Gala on Monday when he won the "Asia’s Fighter of the Year” award after defeating Thailand's Artid Bamrungauea three days before.
Thao is unbeaten with 10 wins, including seven KOs.
The Saigon-born athlete, nicknamed “The Trigger,” is the middle child of three brothers, and used to love fighting as a child, but that all changed when he started boxing lessons at 16.
He’s now a cool, calm and collected man with a different mindset.
“Boxing taught me to remain calm no matter what the situation, and not to use my skills in anger. It’s best to hold yourself back in front of trouble. What I've learned most from boxing is to respect the people around me,” Thao said.
Boxing was initially just a hobby for Thao, and he never thought of competing back then. At the time, Thao weighed under 40 kilograms (88 pounds), and with a moderate height of 1m68 (5.5 feet), he looked nothing like a boxer. However, as time went on, he started to show potential and passion for the sport, and he decided to pursue his dream as a professional boxer.
Thao continued his journey by becoming a national championship, before switching to professional boxing in 2015, which was a turning-point not only for his career, but for boxing in Vietnam overall.
The road to success has not been easy for Thao, because to become a professional boxer, athletes need financial backing and determination, and should be prepared to make sacrifices and encounter risks.
Thao said there was a time he wanted to give up, but his goal was winning that championship belt for Vietnam, so he trained harder.
Tran Van Thao takes the Asia World Boxing Championship belt in November 2017, as shown in a photo he provided to VnExpress.
His coach said Thao has all it takes to become a boxing legend for Vietnam because he is always listening and never stops learning.
The boxer, whose idol is Floyd Mayweather, has shown impressive form by winning by KO in his last seven bouts. In his first 12-round fight for the championship with George Lumoly, he knocked the Indonesian out in less than a minute. It was the first time a championship match ended by KO in the first round. After that, he went on and defeated 33-year-old Artid Bamrungauea of Thailand.
Thao described his Thai competitor as a tough one. "He was bleeding on the fourth round, but he did not ask to stop the game and still tried to fight."
Yet after the situation turned worse, the referee called an end to the game and named Thao the winner by knockout.
"It was my 10th win in a straight. And it will certainly not stop there," he said.
Thao is taking a month break for injuries, before coming back to more training.
He is desiring another victory at ASIAD, the biggest sporting event in Asia which will open in Indonesia this August.
Thao said his success is one proof that any Vietnamese can do well in boxing, as long as they try hard.
"I want more Vietnamese to step into the big arena to let the world know about boxing in Vietnam."
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