I want to make a change – I want to show Wicklow is just as capable as anywhere else.
These are the words of 20-year old kickboxer Liam O’Brien from Wicklow Town, who is determined to prove that not only himself, but his club has what it takes to compete with the best — and that chance to prove himself lays in wait this Saturday, a title fight in Belgium.
Liam is a Kickboxing K1 fighter training out of local club Wicklow Martial Arts. He took up the sport when he was 17, winning his very first fight by stoppage after just six months of initial training — normally one would not start competing this quick, but Liam had a hunger and passion that his coach Simon Alvey quickly recognised.
In October 2017, with three years and 10 fights now under his belt, Liam claimed the Irish IKF 65kg title, an amazing rise to prominence for the youngster. Now, he will look to put his county and country on the map, as he sets off this Friday to Belgium where Liam will battle for a European crown on May 12th — the ISKA European Super Lightweight Senior K1 title.
“This fight in Belgium is a big step up for me, one that I won’t waste — I will win 100%,” Liam said with a confidence filled with determination. “I want to make a change and show that Wicklow fighters are just as capable as one’s from anywhere else, whether that’s national or international.”
From right to left: Head Coach Simon Alvey, Liam O’Brien, Proteinpower.ie owner Gary Stephenson.
His rigorous training routine includes daily runs and sparring sessions six days a week with his Wicklow Martial Arts teammates, and coach. Eager to be as prepared as possible for his European title bout, Liam travelled to Amsterdam in February where he met and trained with some of the best in the world, such as Ilias Bulaid.
Last year Liam was bested in a bout at Wicklow Martial Arts’ home show, at the Grand Hotel in Wicklow Town — the fight was for a different Irish title than the one he currently holds, but losing the title opportunity wasn’t the hardest part: “Losing at home was the hardest part for me, I took the fight two weeks after winning my IKF title.
I felt mentally drained going into the fight, and lost by split decision, but I’ve learned a lot since then, and have upped my game to train harder than ever.
Liam’s original opponent for his European title bout pulled out just two weeks ago, so his replacement opponent has been up in the air, but this hasn’t phased him: “Doesn’t matter who it is, I’ve trained hard enough and I’m prepared to take down whoever they put in front of me”.
The fight this weekend has been made possible through sponsors and the Wicklow Martial Arts team. His coach Simon, training partners, and many other club members will be flying to Brussels to support Liam. He has also received great sponsorship from local organisations, which Liam extends his utmost thank you to: Fitzpatrick’s Pub, Proteinpower.ie, Phil Healy’s Pub, Derek Dunne’s Butchers, WicklowPrint.