Covid-19 has stopped the world from attending shows, enjoying food from our favorite restaurants and even stopped athletes from competing at events. Since the restrictions have been lifted, Wartime Promotions eagerly seized the opportunity to put on its first Muay Thai show post pandemic for amateur and pro fighters. The intention was to provide a safe and fair environment for competitors so they can be confident in displaying their skills to friends and family.
Jake Burke owner of Burke’s Martial Arts and promoter of Wartime. Values the traditional teachings of Muay Thai, A Southeast Asian Martial Art based on the practices of Buddhism; which focuses on the mind, body, spirit and prides itself in the manner in which a fighters and coaches honor and respect his/her teammates. Burke stated “we want to display the beauty of Muay Thai in its entirety and represent it in the way that it is intended.”However, the purity, integrity and corruption of the sport was exposed this weekend when teams had expectations months before competition in a written set of rules by Burke. This was published on July 16th in the Somerville News Weekly and other media outlets. However, coaches were floored when they noticed that fighters were reduced to using recycled unsanitized equipment, hazing and bullying from coaches, and the lack of camaraderie and respect towards young teenage and adult seasoned fighters.
Leading up to the event at the weigh-ins, the event was to be sanctioned by the World Muay Thai Organization (WMO) to ensure that all competitors were kept safe which automatically includes the presence of emergency services. Burke informed all competitors that medicals were not required for the event as is the case for all major sanctioning bodies such as the WBC, WBO, and WBA all competitors are required to get medicals done to provide proof that they are fit to compete as well as to confirm that they do not have any bloodborne pathogens. Seeing as there were teenagers and minors who competed for his promotion he allowed them to risk getting herpes, hepatitis, and potentially HIV. Instead, the proper equipment was not readily available and the equipment that was provided was reused and exposed to blood and other bodily fluids putting them at risk of bloodborne pathogens Furthermore, Wartime unfortunately did not verify that competitors’ wraps were inspected which is a crucial task for any combat sport. Boxing for example has displayed the importance to inspect all equipment prior to the fights because there have been instances recorded where a competitor “stacked” their wraps (stacking meaning enhancing wraps with items such as plaster, lead, as well as other materials and chemicals to blind or impair an opponent). Clearly using the “honor system” in any combat sport can have life long damaging effects to contenders.
Teams with honor and respect have agreed on specific conditions before a bout however, Wartime had their biggest humiliation during the peak of the event, when the teenage competitor Kinjo Espada the PKF national champion was unable to compete due to Coach Mark Beecher; owner of Hyena Muay Thai in Texas. Who showed up to the ring without the proper equipment that was agreed upon by Coach Espada and Coach Beecher but not confirmed by promoter Jake Burke. Kinjo Espada, had all the agreed upon equipment but Rommel Canales did not . Coach Espada who acted in the interest and safety of both teens implored Beecher to reconsider his demands and be considerate to the safety of both teenagers. It was witnessed at ringside as Beecher rolled his eyes and stated “Your kid shouldn’t be a pussy.” Coach and father, John Espada, protested the fact that the agreement was made months prior by Jake Burke that both competitors would wear the proper equipment, specifically shin guards and elbow pads. This disagreement left Wartime without an entertaining fight that the crowd had been anticipating for months, however the integrity of the match was dissolved when Beecher refused to have his fighter gear up resulting in a forfeit for the red corner. As the night closed out, fans of Kinjo Espada and Rommel Canales were disappointed, and outraged with the outcome.
Since the night of the event, a campaign of slander and cyber bullying by Mark Beecher on all of his social media platforms at Kinjo Espada. With this current climate of cyberbullying and self harm what Mark Beecher did is not only appalling but dangerously irresponsible. He has overcome his own demons and has likely received praise as well as criticism. He is in a position that could adversely affect the mind of a teenage competitor, his self confidence and his future career in sports. In what was supposed to be an exciting night of exhibitions went against what its original intentions were and could have grave effects on the promotion and those who competed that evening.
Sharing drinks and fatty snacks with fellow friends, and family as we came together to enjoy a night of entertaining bouts unfortunately ended bittersweet. Instead of finding a solution and standing his ground to protect the interest of both fighters Burke elected to do nothing. We hope in the near future that Wartime continues to learn from this event and put on more shows that not only the crowd can enjoy but so can the contenders can compete with confidence in a safe and fair environment.