Last night saw a battle for the UK number one spot in one of the most competitive weight classes in Muay Thai. Liam ‘The Hitman’ Harrison has held this spot for well over a decade and it didn’t seem like he was for vacating it for the foreseeable future. His opponent was Charlie ‘Boy’ Peters who had recently won a four man 66KG tournament and has fought many of the sport’s biggest names including Fabio Pinca and Saenchai. This north versus south battle was set to be one of the biggest domestic clashes of the year.
Both fighters came out typically cagey as they felt out each other’s styles. Harrison was able to utilize his well-known and wickedly fast leg kick from the outset targeting the lead leg of Peters. It became apparent that both fighters were scoring well with switch left kicks, both of them landing it multiple times during the opening round.
Harrison was the aggressor for much of the round, controlling the center of the ring and cutting it off for Peters and forcing him to move against the ropes. The most explosive part of the round occurred when Harrison countered a heavy switch kick by Peters as he was along the rope with a heavy cross hook combination. Peters showed his experience however and was able to pivot of the ropes and away from Harrison’s power. Despite this evasive victory Peters took a number of leg kicks in the closing seconds which would perhaps swing the round decision in the favor of Harrison.
Early on in this round we saw a slight adjustment for Peters. He began to throw more boxing combinations and move to his left as he did so. This put Harrison in line to receive the right hand or kick as Peters was now on the dominant center line. Within the first minute Peters caught Harrison with a high kick garnering a reaction from the crowd although Harrison recovered well and retaliated with his own.
The story of this round was much more positive for Peters as he put together more flowing boxing combinations typically off his jab. He extensively used 1-2s and a jab to uppercut combination which caught Harrison out a number of times. The height of Peters and reach advantage proved a large bonus for him as during the clinch engagements he was able to man handle Harrison and throw him to the ground.
Although Harrison tried to mitigate the reach of Peters with his low kicks, the boxing to kicks that Peters threw meant that the round was securely scored for Peters.
Round three began with Harrison regaining control of the ring as he had in round one, scoring with heavy switch kicks to the body of Peters. Harrison also began to put more boxing combinations together before finishing with a low kick rather than throwing it naked as he had in previous rounds.
Both fighters showed a fantastic ability to circle to their left as their opponent came forward to throw. This meant they avoided the bulk damage by placing themselves at an angle which their opponent could not optimally utilize their power. Although Peters took a few low kicks as Harrison passed by him the worst of Harrison’s heavy hands were avoided.
Throughout the round there was no clear as to who was the dominant fighter. Although Harrison scored more with the switch kicks he ended the fight on the back foot being pushed against the ropes by the forward pressure of Peters. It was odd to see Peters not use his reach as well as he had done in round 2 which Harrison had trouble dealing with. With no clear winner round three could easily be a draw.
Peters started round four as he should of in round three with marching jab crosses and integrating his kicks at the end. Harrison seemed to be overly reliant on his switch kick to the body and the right low kick. Although Peters was clearly having issues trying to check them he dominated the intervals between Harrison throwing them with his combinations.
Once again we saw Peters manhandle Harrison in the clinch which resulted in Harrison nearly going through the ropes. Not a good sign if you are trying to establish yourself as the dominant fighter with the judges. Harrison seemed to realize this toward the end of the round and started working more hook to kick combinations. This did back fire somewhat as he slipped after throwing a right high kick which was checked by Peters. A few seconds he tasted the canvas again when he got caught by a left hook whilst he was out of position.
The round ended soon after which certainly meant that the round belonged to Peters. Harrison needed to clearly win the next round or potentially knock out Peters if he was to retain his number one spot.
For much of the final round both fighters seemed content exchanging switch kicks in an attempt to outpoint one another. Harrison did show a lovely check hook as Peters came forward (essential leaning back and pivoting off to the left whilst simultaneously throwing a left hook) which caught Peters clean.
Harrison knew he had to try and dominate this round and tried a number of eye-catching techniques such as a jumping elbow. He also attempted a sweep (a high score when done correctly) but Peters was able to successfully defend it. Peters showed less concern about scoring big than Harrison and did let his foot off the gas towards the end of the round. He allowed himself to be walked to the ropes whilst using probing teeps to keep Harrison off. Peters never looked in trouble though and was able to cruise for the final part of the round.
Following the final round it was clear that both camps and their fighters thought they had done enough to win the fight. However it was Peters who had his hand raised with a unanimous decision victory.
It was an incredibly close fight with most rounds only being won by relatively small margins. Peters at points during the fight showed the difference a longer reach and taller stature can make in a fight. His best moments were when he kept Harrison on the ends of his long straight punches. Getting involved in a kick for kick battle with Harrison narrowed some of the round’s decisions.
Harrison showed his trade mark power with his right leg kick and left switch kick. The issue seemed to be what he did in between unleashing these kicks. Less reliance on these two weapons may have been of some benefit. They scored well but Harrison has proven power in both his hands so why not adopt a Dutch style approach and use that power to keep Peters in range?
I am sure both these fighters will take away a number of lessons from this fight. Harrison has a fantastic trainer in Richard Smith and a world class gym in Bad Company. He already has a full schedule which will help him in his campaign for his number one spot. Peters will also have a challenge in maintaining his status as the top of the domestic talent at a weight division with heaps of talent. And who knows, we might see a rematch with Harrison in the near future?