By Alexander Zammit

The World Kickboxing Network (WKN) is one of the largest professional kickboxing organizations in the world. It is represented in more than 100 countries promoting both amateur and professional divisions for Kickboxing and Thai Boxing competitions.

Combat-sports has always been popular in the Maltese Islands, with a history dating back to 1893 when Private Fenech of the RMA became the first Maltese national to enter a ring in a boxing match against Lance Cpl. Wild of the Surrey Regt . It was also the first time that the Maltese tasted sweet victory in the ring when Fenech beat his British opponent on points.

Contact sports in Malta has evolved greatly since it’s local induction in the late 1800’s – martial arts in the form of Judo started to make an appearance in the sixties and in the seventies & eighties other forms of martial arts started gaining rapid popularity, such as Karate, Kung Fu and Spirit Combat. The late eighties and nineties saw the introduction of Kickboxing in these Islands.

Kickboxing, spread in Malta more rapidly than any of the other martial arts. The fact that the sport was based on kicking & punching and historically developed from a mix of Karate, Muay Thai and Western Boxing, truly appealed to the local aficionados of combat sports.

Then in 1996 Noel Mercieca a young practitioner of the sport decided to set up his own martial arts club – The Ying Yang Kickboxing Club thanks to the dedication of Noel who is a 5th Dan in Kickboxing, 1st Dan in Tang Soo Doo, European Champion and a World Title contender, did not take long to establish it-self locally and on the international platform. Over a fifteen year span the Ying Yang became the most successful martial arts club in the Maltese Islands, with its athletes bringing in honours on both the local and international scene.

Whilst Noel Mercieca’s students have won several international honours under a variety of Martial Arts sanctioning bodies, the turning point that was to take this club to the next step on the international level came about when the Ying Yang became the first combat sport club in Malta to join the World Kickboxing Network (WKN) which is one of the largest professional kickboxing organizations in the world and it is represented in more than 100 countries promoting both amateur and professional divisions for Kickboxing and Thai Boxing competitions.

A few months ago WKN World President, Stephane Cabrera was in Malta for a training seminar along with Belgian coach Yigin Haci Osman, who was a sixteen times world champion and twenty eight times European champion in Thai boxing / Kickboxing and full contact and is considered as one of the best lightweights ever in kickboxing and thaiboxing history.

I met with both Stephane & Yigin at the Sliema hotel where they were staying and was immediately taken with the passion they have for the promotion of the sport.

The WKN President started off by explaining how impressed he was with the level attained by local students of the Kickboxing in such a short time. Then Yigin, who has been to Malta on previous occasions said that the dedication of the Maltese was admirable and that it was through this dedication that so many local athletes were achieving international success in the sport.

When asked about the future of our locals youngsters entering the professional scene of the sport – The WKN President replied that although this was very possible, one had to bear in mind that this was not an easy task considering the size and limitations of the Island, however perseverance over comes many obstacles, a point in case being local star Daniel Zahra, who managed not only to move from the amateur into the professional ranks but did it successfully, by constantly winning titles along the way.

Talking about the seminar, coach Yigin Osman said; that he was pleased not only by the progress of the local youngsters but also by the enthusiasm exhibited by those participating.

Asked about the level of relations with local representation and the future of WKN in Malta; Stephan Cabrera, explained that in Malta the WKN was represented by martial arts expert & promoter Adrian Axisa and he was very satisfied with Malta’s performance, which is why the WKN had sanctioned several international shows over the past few years. As for the future the WKN President said that he hoped that Malta would soon be able to host one of the most successful, international promotions sanctioned by the WKN ‘Bigger’s Better’ (© Bigger’s Better Inc) an eight men, winner takes all, one night boxing tournament, with a prize of $30,000, with participants coming from different schools of the fight game and the finals being shown live on Eurosport Television.

Going back to the subject of training and clubs: Yigin Osman was most emphatic in stating that he would definitely be coming to Malta again, Yigin, explained that he greatly enjoyed his sessions at the Ying Yang club and worked very well with coach Noel Mercieca.

Stephan Cabrera, argued that he looked forward to being part of the development of the sport in Malta. “We Want to be and the WKN is honoured to support and assist in the development of kickboxing in Malta” said the WKN President.