Three gold medals, not a single round lost at the IFMA Youth World Championships. US teen sensation, Bekah Irwin, has already made history in Muay Thai and hasn’t even been to prom as yet.
Training out of Heritage Muay Thai in Houston Texas, Irwin has achieved more in three short years than most American adult fighters do in their entire career.
“My body has adjusted super easy. All my basics were there,” Irwin told ROUGH when asked about being so young but competing at such a high level.
“It went quicker than normal. I think that is why I’ve gotten good so fast.”
It didn’t take long for Irwin to sky rocket to the top. She is now forced to takes bouts overseas to keep her active. In addition to her annual trip to the mother land to compete at IFMA, she has already traveled to Chiang Mai 4 times to get matched up. The Northern region of Thailand is known for having a deep pool of local talent.
Her next bout is slated for 05 October at the world’s first Muay Thai Expo in Buriram. Irwin will be defending her Nai Khanom Tom Muay Thai Sports Association Championship 122lbs title against current W.P.M.F Champion Kaenkaew Kor.Klomkliem from Thailand.
This massive card will also feature a rematch between Kulabdam against heated rival Tawanchai.
Additionally, Thailand’s first ever gold medal winner, Somrak Kamsing, will take on Golen Era Champion Samart Payakaroon in an exhibition match. To be featured on such a prestigious event, as the only female match on the card, really goes to show the level and draw this young woman encompasses.
It is crazy to think that Irwin began fighting just a few years ago. It was difficult in the beginning. Her very first fight was a loss at the Thai Boxing Association tournament in Iowa back in 2015. She attributes her initial short coming to improper training.
“I lost because I didn’t run. It was stressful,” Irwin said.
“The second day I came back and I won. When I won the second time it made me want to keep competing.”
Training has quite literally taken a hold of her life. But the Texas native knows she must stay focused if she wants to rise to the top. Together with her coach, Michael Corley, the pair go by the moto: train like dogs. Even with an already intense training regime, and keeping up with her studies, Irwin admits she’s been training even harder for this fight.
That little bit extra makes a big difference especially since her gym is so far from home. It’s a daily commute of 45 minutes, which she drives herself. Like many teenagers being able to drive gave her increased freedom. It allows her to go to the gym independently, before she was driven by her parents.
“I’m a good driver,” she said.
“I did an online course. I started when I was 15 years old but didn’t get my license until last year.”
Naturally quiet Irwin said that her peers find it surprising that she is an acclaimed athlete. The high school senior is normal but doesn’t get out much.
“A lot of the kids my age party. I don’t have time to do that. I train on the weekends.”
She puts in the extra time at the gym instead of keeping busy with things like social media, or even going to the mall.
“It’s kinda complicated,” she said about her schedule.
“I get homework done in class. When I get home after training I just want to go to bed.”
Irwin has become a poster child for American Muay Thai’s success and growth. This year the United States Muay Thai Federation took home more gold medals at the IFMA games than any other previous year, that includes both the adult and youth teams.
This year Irwin defeated Portugal and Thailand via points decision then won the gold in the finals by referee stoppage. This year was her last year competing in the youth division. She has aged out of the group but is hoping to compete on the adult team sometime next year.
Being a teen sensation is a complicated concept. A gifted children in an adult world. What makes Irwin so special, is her ability to maintain her youth despite competing at an adult level. Both confined and freed by her adolescence she can never truly be autonomous until leaves her youth behind.
It’s going to be a tough transition as she moves from youth to adult competition, but one that both her and her coach are prepared for. Now that she’s aged out of the youth level of IFMA she will face even fiercer competition in the adult leagues. And while she can delay going to parties, and homecoming for now, there are hard choices coming up. University, work, obligations, relationships— all things that can waylay a fighter’s career.
Irwin has a tough and long road ahead of her but her stellar start has this teen shooting for the stars. This is truly just the beginning.