Local sports focus: Leeds Thai boxing club is determined to stay on top of the world

Founder and chief instructor Richard Smith, centre left,with some of the fighters at Bad Company Thai Boxing Gym.
Founder and chief instructor Richard Smith, centre left,with some of the fighters at Bad Company Thai Boxing Gym.
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IT’s The Thai Boxing gym that produces world champions at a rate of one per year.

Bad Company Thai Boxing Gym, based in Burmantofts, Leeds has just celebrated winning its 26th world title since being founded 26 years ago.

A tremendous record in itself, but even better when you consider that the gym’s founder, Richard Smith, only set up in Leeds because there were no other Thai boxing clubs available.

It is clear as you walk through the doors of the gym, that Bad Company is a gym with a drive to win titles.

But it also has a tight-knit family atmosphere that encompasses the whole gym, with coaches spurring on their trainees as they drill the pads, giving them encouragement to keep pushing and pointers on where they can improve.

The gym was set up in 1992 by its founder, and now chief instructor, Richard Smith, after he moved to Leeds from Sheffield and noticed the city didn’t have a Thai boxing gym.

Smith would train in Chesterfield, and would also travel to Manchester for training with a top Thai kickboxing master as well, before he relocated to Leeds.

“I moved up here just for work, there were no Thai boxing gyms in Leeds at the time, so I started training at a local pro boxing gym, just for somewhere to train locally, and I turned pro, and had a few fights, but I was still having to travel up to Manchester to carry on with my Thai boxing,” said Smith.

“Because there were no gyms in Leeds, I just decided I was going to open one myself, and I started Bad Company on Roundhay Road, in St Aidan’s church hall.”

In the 26 years since setting up the gym, Richard and his wife Lisa Houghton-Smith have trained multiple world champions, with the gym claiming its 26th world title a month ago.

Fighters from Bad Company compete overseas regularly, evidenced by posters plastered across the gym of events that have taken place in Italy, Spain and Thailand.

“It’s one of those things where you start off with ambitions and I distinctly remember the first time I opened the gym, I hoped I might one day have a British champion, and it wasn’t long before we achieved that,” said Smith.

“Things just went from strength to strength, and we’ve just built a great stable of fighters and a good family atmosphere. People like to come here and train and it’s built from there, really.”

Richard also emphasised just how important the family aspect of the gym is.

“I think the family atmosphere is very important to the gym.

“I’m not being modest about it, I’m a good trainer, I’ve got good training and management skills, but so have a lot of people, my wife Lisa is a bit more responsible for the family side of things.

“Having it as a team, where people enjoy coming and want to come and get on well with each other and and then go and socialise outside the gym, is the most important thing, I think.”

The couple’s training isn’t just limited to teaching adults though, as they teach fighters from around Yorkshire, with kids travelling from as far as Halifax and Bradford to come and learn Thai boxing, but also learn how to defend themselves, whilst also giving them the chance to socialise and meet new friends while exercising.

This has proved successful, and just last year, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on how four of the children that Richard and Lisa teach, including their sons Finlay and Fergus, had competed at the WTKA world championships in Italy, and came back with eight medals between them, five of which were gold.

Such success has seen the gym’s reputation sky rocket, with professional MMA fighters training at the gym to improve their striking, while Thai Fighter UK named the gym as it’s Gym of the Year last year.

When asked about the future of the club, and where he wants to see it, Smith’s love of the gym really shone through, saying: “We won gym of the year last year, and we’re still up there with the number of champions, up and coming fighters and with the junior team, and all the rest of it, and that’s where we want to stay.

“I’d love to see us still there in the next 20 years.”

With plenty of talented junior fighters, and more up and coming fighters progressing through the ranks, it looks like that will be very much be the case for the gym.