IT was almost two years ago that Cork’s Ryan Sheehan decided to take some time away from Muay Thai fighting.
A disappointing result at the end of a tough fight against a well-known opponent proved to be the final straw and the Leesider knew he needed a break from the sport.
“I fought a fella from Thailand, he’s a legend and it ended in a draw,” recalls Sheehan.
"After that fight I was kind of annoyed with how it went and the decision so I stopped training and I stopped fighting, I took a year off to get myself right.”
His hiatus lasted close to a year before he was handed an opportunity that was too good to turn down. But it didn’t go as well as he hoped.
"My first fight back was a WBC title fight and the referee had to stop it because I took a massive knee to the nose, I couldn’t carry on,” he said.
“After the 12 months off I felt I was after losing my sharpness and it took me a while to get back to basics.
“I was gutted, it was devastating but I said then if I get that chance again to win the belt I’m not going to let it slip out of my hands.
“I took that fight and it was like six weeks after Christmas. It was tough to get back into it but after that loss, I knew what had to be done, I knew what had to be changed and I knew what I had to improve on, and I did it.”
He was true to his word. His mentality changed after that defeat as he worked hard to regain his form after a lengthy period away from fighting.
The 22-year-old battled to reclaim his number one ranking in Ireland and he just missed out on winning a world title.
But then came the fight he truly craved. Sheehan, who is reigning ISKA European Champion, was handed the chance to capture the WBC Muaythai International bantamweight title.
Having missed out on winning this belt before, he worked hard to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again.
“I trained hard, I changed my whole training routine for it,” he confirmed.
“I didn’t put as much pressure on my body as I normally would so I trained smarter. My intentions going into the fight was to fight smarter because usually I would get sliced open, it would be back and forth, it would be like a war but this time I fought smarter and I executed it perfectly.”
At the beginning of this month in Dublin, Sheehan made amends for his loss in 2019 as he defeated Klairung Sasiprapa of Thailand with a left hook knockout in the second round “It only sunk in the last two or three days what I’m after doing, I’m still buzzing from it,” he enthused.
“It wasn’t an overnight success, I’ve been fighting for the last seven years but winning a WBC title... It’s such a prestigious belt it is regarded as one of the most important belts of them all.
“It’s one of those sports where if you work hard enough you will get the opportunities.
“I said to the lads in the gym and in my head as well I was like I’m going to knock him out. I wouldn’t normally say that but that was just me being confident and being a bit cocky.
“The fight is a really big deal around the world, there is only a few of us from Ireland who have gone on to fight at that top level and achieved such things.
“When I took the fight against a Thai opponent I knew it was going to be hard, he was notorious for knocking guys out and that is their sport so I was a bit nervous about who I was fighting rather than what was on the line.
“But the minute I stepped in the ring I thought 'Alright Ryan, you have one job here and that’s all you need to do.'
“It just proved that if you put the hard work in, and you dedicate yourself to something and you believe in yourself, you will achieve it. I proved to myself that I could something amazing.”
After achieving this landmark, Sheehan will not rest on his laurels. He is hoping to fight to retain his European belt in Spain in the coming weeks but that may be postponed due to the Coronavirus.
But longer term, he is looking to go as far as possible.
"I want to have a legacy and to get the credit and rewards for being in these fights,” said Sheehan.
“I’d like to be local celebrity. But any fight that comes my way I’ll take, that’s my attitude. If you want to be the best you have to fight the best.”
But for now he can just reflect on a great triumph which his coach Marin Horgan of Siam Warriors in Cork believes is well deserved.
“I've walked Ryan to the ring in over 40 fights, some incredibly tough fights at a world-class level and in places like Tokyo, Paris, Arizona, Milan and even Baghdad, the list goes on,” said Horgan.
“To get a win like this in Ireland against a knockout merchant like Klairung was a great achievement. I'm happy to see Ryan’s hard work pay off, it's not one night its years of fights.
“It gives us big attention once again in world of Muaythai, all the top events always have us on their radar this just cements more big fights which is great for a young Cork fighter.
“We now have two world-class standard fighters in Ryan and Sean Clancy representing Siam Warriors Cork which is massive for us.”