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Female Thai boxer of the month: Sheree Halliday

Our female fighter feature of the month for March 2014, written exclusively for FightstorePro concentrates on World Champion Female Muay Thai fighter Sheree Halliday.

32 year old Sheree has been a participant in the sport of Muay Thai since the age of 18. Over the last fourteen years Sheree has fought competitively 28 times, with many of her fights fought under A-class rules. While her nature is quiet, humble and reserved, her resume is anything but and boasts an impressive ISKA World title, ISKA English title, IKF European title, WKPL British title in addition to a bronze medal in the 2006 IFMA Championships. An active girl from a very young age, Sheree represented her middle school in netball, athletics and cross-country. Later, Sheree played for a local football team and also went on to run for Woking athletics club in track and cross-country. The long journey into Thai Boxing began for Sheree after watching her friends brother compete in a local competition. Sheree states ‘I stood watching the fighting with a feeling of amazement. I was so eager to try it myself but thought if I mentioned it to people they would think it was a joke. I had always been the quiet one and if another girl was to pick a fight with me back then I would probably cry as oppose to fighting back’ At the time, Sheree also played ‘taxi’ to her younger brother who practised Karate at their local leisure centre. It was here that Sheree spotted an advert for Thai boxing and the classes were held at the same time as her brothers Karate class. Sheree states ‘for the next couple of weeks I peered through the window watching the classes and thinking I could become a female Jean Claude Van-Dam. I told my Father that I really wanted to try it and he said something along the lines of, there goes your nose! But I dragged one of my friends along to a class. She lasted a month before deciding that getting punched in the face wasn’t really for her. I haven’t looked back since.’ Sheree had her first taste of competition in 2002, against Candy Berry at the Guildford Spectrum, a leisure centre in Surrey and after a while, training led to Sheree spending a great deal of time in Thailand, including two long trips. One for 6 months and another for 7 months and many other trips in between. Sheree states ‘I absolutely adore Thailand. Part of my heart will always remain there. The very first gym I trained at in Thailand was Siam Number 1, the gym that the famous Nong Toom began her career at. From there I travelled to Bangkok and settled at W.P.T gym in Nawamin. From my first visit there it became clear that it was where my loyalties would be. I became a part of their family and it was here that my life as a professional Muay Thai fighter changed for the better. This was mainly thanks to my trainer there Mr. ChokeChaichanna krutsuwan, also known as Pimu’ As many of us have learned the hard way, training Thai Boxing in Thailand isn’t as easy or as straightforward as one may think. The Thai trainers have often been fighting from a very early age and coaching full time after retiring from fighting. They are tough and some are almost impossible perfectionists. Western fighters travel there with high hopes, only to be dashed by abrupt critique that the Thais seem to convey in such harshly, accurate fashion. Sheree discovered this fairly early on, stating ‘on my first day of training at W.P.T I was up early and out with the Thai’s on the hour long run along the streets of Bangkok and I started to wonder just what I had signed up for, especially as it became clear I was the only foreigner there. I spent the first few days walking back and forth, left to right practising my stance and basic movement. I was told I was too bouncy and wasting my energy. Training here was like starting a whole new, different Martial Art to the one I was used too. It was like starting again.’ As time went on however, Sheree began to appreciate the new and improved version of herself that was beginning to emerge. The hours and hours of practising and refining everything from technique and timing to footwork and positioning, were starting to pay dividends. One of the best attributes Sheree learned to develop was ‘good heart’ a term the Thai people are fond of awarding to a boxer who can push themselves beyond their limits with determination and a will that wont give up. This was put to the test in some of Sheree’s fights in Thailand. Speaking about the very first time she fought in Bangkok, Sheree states ‘my first fight in Bangkok was memorable, for many reasons! The boxing ring was in the middle of a street. I had no idea at all who I was fighting and there were people coming up to me squeezing my arms and thighs. I was oiled up and massaged in the middle of a street with what seemed like hundreds of people watching me and talking about me in Thai. You’re forever getting told that you will be fighting in the next ten minutes but it eventually stretches in ten times that. I ended up fighting just before midnight. It was very tough and also A-Class, meaning full Thai rules with elbows and knees to the head. I won on points. At the end I was awarded with a big box and was very excited to open it. It was a massive box of noodles!’ Halliday with belts Amongst Sheree’s domestic opposition, she counts her fight with Bad Company’s Sarah McCarthy as one of her most memorable, stating ‘A fight that I hold very close to my heart was my fight against Sarah McCarthy at Rumble at the Reebok in 2009. I was so nervous as I had just suffered a loss to Canadian fighter Sandra Bastian. Sarah and I had become friends over the years so having to fight each other, where previously we had supported each other’s fights, was tough. I knew it was going to be a very hard fight as Sarah is a very strong fighter. For the whole fight she walked forward at me trying to wear me down but it was a great, enjoyable fight. I took the win on points and Sarah then bought the drinks. We fought but remained friends, that is what I love about this great sport.’ Training now sees Sheree splitting her time between two different gyms, Keddles Gym in Orpington and Team Tieu in London and can count top fighters such as Alexis Rufus amongst her training partners. Outside of Thai boxing Sheree is also a qualified Au Pair and looks after two young boys 3 and 4 years of age. In addition to this Sheree works at Locker 27 teaching ‘Thai Fit’ a ladies only fitness class. The female fight scene is something that as one would imagine, holds Sheree’s attention. The general consensus between all of our female fighters of the month with regards to the UK’s female fighters has been very positive and Sheree states ‘the female fight scene in the UK has got much better over the last few years. The standard is so high now and we have such a broad range of talent. The ladies are getting better fight offers both here and abroad and promoters are now allowing females to consistently headline shows. Plus with businesses like AWAKENING supporting the new female era, things will continue to develop.’ Female fighters past and present have also played a big part in inspiring Sheree on her Thai boxing journey. In particular, Sheree admires MMA star Gina Carano, who began her fight career in Thai Boxing and it was the the TV series ‘Ring Girls’ starring a young Gina training and fighting in Thailand, that made Sheree determined to travel to Bangkok. Another Lady who has played a big part in Sheree’s life is the accomplished fighter Melissa Ray. Sheree states ‘Melissa Ray has been a huge inspiration to me. We met many years ago when Melissa was studying for her PhD. Mel was one of the first female fighters that I had actually met that went to Bangkok to persue her passion for the sport. Watching her career over the years has helped give me the courage to do it for myself. She is an amazing lady who has achieved great things.’ Kind words from Sheree about her fellow fighters, but its safe to say Sheree will have played her part in the history of up and coming UK female fighters by inspiring the next generation of girls who venture into the daunting but rewarding life that is Muay Thai.

Sheree prepares for combat

Sheree Halliday stats Weight: 59-61kg Total fights: 28 Wins: 19 Loss: 8 Draws: 1 Titles held (see above) Photo copyright Rew Mitchell, Jeff Dojillo

Written by Marianne Barrett

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