As Tanko Muay Thai League draws nearer, we sit down with headliner Michael “The Punisher” Wakeling to chat about his upcoming fight with Marco Pique.
A Michael Wakeling loss is a bit like an old childhood memory. It happened so long ago, it almost feels like it might have never actually happened at all.
A single defeat follows “The Punisher” around on his professional fight record, but it’s lost somewhere among thirty-plus fights like a needle in a haystack. Almost fifteen years have come and gone since this fighter was last bested in the ring. Whenever Wakeling steps up to compete nowadays, a victory seems as inevitable as the cork popping off a well-shaken bottle of champagne. “Defeat” is a word he’s simply lost from his vocabulary.
Wakeling was introduced to Muay Thai by his father – the founder of Scorpion’s Gym in Kent (where Wakeling still trains to this day). Since picking up a pair of fight mitts for the very first time, he has proceeded to conquer almost every man that promoters have dared to pair him up with. On 12th February, the illustrious Marco Pique steps up in a bid to turn the tables at Tanko Muay Thai League.
Wakeling’s successes rank among the very best, but for all the knockouts, titles and accolades, his wife and children are what he considers to be his greatest achievement. You don’t see many thirty-one-year old family men with the nickname “Punisher”, but as much as Wakeling enjoys fighting, his loved ones come first.
“A fighting career is about balance as well as everything else”, he tells us.
“I have a family now and it’s important for me to spend time with them. There are responsibilities to handle and bills to pay.”
This goes a long way to explaining why Wakeling’s fights are so few and far between these days. As a rising star, you can take all the challenges as they’re presented to you. But Wakeling has been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Now he’s a little older, he’s realised the importance of picking and choosing his battles.
“These days, a fight has got to be right for me,” he explains.
“It needs to be right financially, and of course, it has to be a fight with an opponent who I’m interested in.”
When the opportunity arose to tackle a legendary character like Pique on a big platform in Manchester, Wakeling knew the time was right to return.
“I’ve known Marco Pique to be a top fighter for many years now,” he tells us.
“This is a fight that gets me really excited. I have been training very hard to prepare, with lots of pad work, sparring, and strength and conditioning. I need to be in top shape to get the win. Pique will bring his A-game, which ought to make for a very exciting fight.”
Tanko Muay Thai League was born following Tanko’s successful association with several other combat sports spectacles over the past two years, including The Tanko Main Event and Tanko Fighting Championships. Wakeling has starred on enough shows to know exactly what a Muay Thai event should look like, and believes Tanko are approaching things in a positive and appealing way.
“A good Muay Thai event must have smart matchmaking with both domestic and international fights on the card. I think 12-15 contests is about right. The event also needs to finish at a reasonable time, with entertainment and breaks in between to keep the crowd happy.
“This is exactly what Tanko are doing, and it’s great to see. The standard of Muay Thai is very good right now with some excellent talent coming through, and I think Tanko will help to push the sport forward if they keep going the way they are. They’re on to a very good thing with these events.”
Wakeling is the sort of fighter you hope will compete forever, and we couldn’t help but wonder what the future might hold for his career. Whilst we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves, the world champion remains completely grounded. He has two eyes fixated on Sunday’s clash and refuses to look any further until that final bell rings.
“I like to take things fight by fight,” he tells us.
“I’ll go to Tanko Muay Thai League, do my thing, and analyse my options after this fight.”
When we ask Wakeling about his approach for the upcoming fight, he’s unsurprisingly coy.
“I need to stop Marco Pique hitting me, and be able to hit him back myself!” he laughs.
It was an answer we ought to have expected. After all, a fighter of Wakeling’s calibre isn’t exactly going to give his secret to success away. If that were the case, there’d be a lot more fighters strolling about with fifteen-year unbeaten records in tow.
See Michael “The Punisher” Wakeling star in the inaugural Tanko Muay Thai League this Sunday as he takes on Marco “The Sniper” Pique. Tickets are still available for online purchase. A small number will also be available on the door for an extra £10 on top of the advertised prices. Get your ticket as soon as possible online to claim your seat at TML at a discount price!