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Thailand, COVID, and a return to America – The latest chapters in the insane James Power story

He debuted in Mexico before he was eligible to get an Irish boxing license or old enough to drink.

He trained and fought professionally during his Leaving Cert year and even turned up for his Irish Oral exam hours after returning from a fight in Hungary, literally changing into his uniform from his fight shorts.

Not long after receiving his exam results, he was off to America to explore the gyms of LA before COVID prompted a return to Cork.

It was destination Thailand next for Ireland’s youngest debutant and a stint at a Tiger Muay Thai, a gym gaining a serious reputation in the world of UFC.

The first few chapters of James Power’s autobiography look set to make for interesting reading. Now take into account whilst in Phuket the Dripsey youngster caught COVID and it becomes a must-read unless you’re going to wait for the film.

It’s easy to take a tongue and cheek look at the situation now the 20-year-old is on the mend but the Fr Horgan’s graduate reveals testing positive for COVID so far away from home and in such unfamiliar surrounds was beyond scary, not just for him but for his family.

“It’s an uncomfortable feeling. As soon as I tested positive for COVID, I was immediately brought to the hospital and placed in confinement,” Power told Irish-boxing.com.

“It’s a strange situation to be in and I know my mother, sister, and family, are all stressed and nervous about my safety.”

“I’ll be completely honest, I allowed the situation to consume me during the first couple of days. I got stressed out, overwhelmed, and didn’t handle it in the best way possible.”

After a few frightening days in isolation, Power invoked his fighter’s spirit and took a new approach to the illness.

“This is the situation we’re in and all we can do is make the most of it. I’ve been in uncomfortable places before, I’ve put myself through challenges and tests time and time again, and this is no different.

“I’m feeling good now. I know this is a strange virus and it impacts different people in different ways. But I’m young and healthy. There is nothing to worry about. I’ll get through this, recover, and return home safely very soon. I’m confident in my ability to get through it. The only worry I had was if I accidentally passed it on to someone who wasn’t as healthy or able to fight it off. Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be the case and my conscience is clear.”

The Rebel County youngster’s recovery was helped by the kindness of those he met during his stint in the land of smiles, the type of generosity he says he will never forget.

He continues: “I might have traveled here alone, but, I’m not alone anymore. As soon as I arrived at the hospital, people started to drop off food, water, and everything else I might need. I can’t express how much that helps being away from home. It was mind-blowing and I will never forget that.”

If catching the virus and being locked up in a remote Thai hospital wasn’t disheartening enough, the unbeaten youngster found out he was positive 24 hours before he was due to fly home.

“The reason I got a COVID test was for my flight home the next day. I was in my hotel room preparing to leave and to collect my results on the way to the airport. Then I received a phone call telling me that I tested positive and to isolate in my hotel room as quickly as possible as the hospital were on their way to collect me.

“I genuinely have no idea how I caught it. I know there’s a few cases in Phuket at the moment. I must have come into contact with someone who was positive and it spread.”

It may have finished on a sour note but Sheer Sports managed fighter did have a positive Thai experience. Not only did the nomadic Power get the chance to broaden his horizons in the picturesque paradise, but he was also exposed to hungry fighters from different fight and global cultures.

It wasn’t the ideal end to what seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime multi-purposed trip.

It was anything but a gap year-style visit, Power was in the Tiger Muay Thai Gym to work and he enjoyed doing so, particularly as he was surrounded by some equally determined fighters.

“Phuket is beautiful. It’s definitely a place everyone should visit. Although, it’s the people I’ve connected with here, that has been the highlight of my trip.

“I’ve made family during the past few months. People from all over the world who share the same mindset, work ethic and goals as I do. I have no doubt that we’ll all continue to stay in touch moving forward.

“Training at Tiger Muay Thai has been a priceless experience. I’ve learned so much from working with the coaches here. Shaun Kober, Peter Forneck, Holly Lohmeyer are all exceptional strength and conditioning coaches and are incredible at what they do. They’ve taught me a lot of things that will benefit my career and life moving forward.

“Also, watching and learning from coaches like Frank and George Hickman the past few months has been an honour. It’s not everyday you can listen to some of the best coaches in the world and take their advice.”

“The gym is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s incredible. Tiger Muay Thai has everything an athlete needs in one place. I’m proud to have joined the team and I will be back there for sure.”

Power talks with such excitement about a couple of months in a gym Donegal’s John Hutchinson calls home. But surely a teen who is so close to his mother and young sister must have missed home?

“I feel like you’re so busy training that you don’t get time to think about missing home. You’re always active and there’s always something to do. If I had a lot of time idle I would definitely miss home. But the way your schedule is set up you never get that chance.”

Thailand was about training for Power, he seems to have taken a deliberate sabbatical from fighting for the time being. However, he now hopes to return to America where he forged good relationships prior to the pandemic and will be looking to return to the ring for the first time in over a year.

“America will be where I’m based. I feel like that’s the best place for me to be. I will be heading home to spend some time with my family and friends as soon as I can before moving there very soon. I believe my next fight will be on American soil and I have no doubt that my management, Sheer Sports, and coach, Courage Tshabalala, will make that happen as soon as I land,” he adds before revealing he will return to Tiger and Thailand.

“I would really love to keep that connection with Tiger and continue to represent them. They’ve welcomed me to their family and I will never forget that. I will return there to catch up with everyone and continue training whenever I can.”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com