Andy Howson Interview
Today we talk to Andy Howson, a British Muay Thai fighter, known for his aggressive fighting style and never give up attitude. Andy is a five-time world champion in the 55 kg Super Bantamweight division and known outside of Thailand as one of the best ever bantamweight fighters. During his 24 year career, he got remarkable achievements and nicknames – The Punisher and Lord of War.
1. When and where have you started your training and what was the reason?
So, I was quite late getting into Muay Thai really as I didn’t start training till I was 17. Basically, I was working at a local supermarket fresh out of school and one of my mates I was working with Des Claxton had started training down at Bad Company with Richard Smith to help boost his fitness as he was training to get into the Marines at the time.
He ended up having a few fights and loved it and one day asked if I wanted to go along to a show with him to watch a couple of the lads from the gym fight, I went along and absolutely loved the show and decided to go along to training the following week and that was that really, I was hooked after my first week’s training and haven’t looked back since.
2. Why did you choose Muay Thai over many other styles?
As a kid, I was obsessed with Martial Arts films and I and Liam used to go to the video shop every weekend and get like 4/5 films out and sit glued to the TV all weekend watching Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan films and then mess about kicking each other around the place as you do.
I had trained and competed in various things as a kid, Judo, Boxing and played Rugby all through my teens until I got an injury and just never went back, and basically, nothing had grabbed my attention enough to meek me really stick at it and make a go of it until I started training at Bad Company that is. And the rest is history really.
3. Do you remember you feeling when you step into the pro ring the first time?
Yeah, I remember it well, I had been training around 3/4 months if that and Richard offered me a fight on one of Master Skens shows and it was to fight one of his fighters Nicky Webb. It was meant to be a C class bout so back then that was 3×2 min rounds 8oz gloves and shin pads, I can still remember I finishing warming up and I was sat on the floor putting my shin pads on as Master Sken walked past and said “Andy this fight no shin pads” I thought…SHIT but tried to act hard and was just like “sweet even better” But I was crapping it think my legs are going to be in bits after this it’s going to kill.
Anyway was a crazy fight and we basically just took it in turns to punch each other’s faces in for 30-second blasts the first 2 rounds, I can remember him kicking me in last round and I blocked it and it didn’t hurt so straight away I was thinking its not that bad this and started kicking back.
The fight ended up a draw and my legs were fine and got a bit cocky saying to Richard that it’s not that bad bare shins why does everyone moan about it? 40 mins later in the car on the way home basically bitched the entire way home to Leeds that my legs were just broken ha.
4. You managed to become a 5 times world champion including the prestigious WBC World title. Which title cost you the most of your skills?
Yeah, it has been an amazing run so far and so much fun and great memories and winning the WBC World Title topped it all off. I think winning my second World Title the WMC Title sticks out to me because I really had to graft to get the win. I was taking on a Malaysian fighter who had 75f 70w at the time so a brilliant record, it was a great fight and ended up a total war.
I nicked the first 2 rounds just outscoring him and that little bit more effective but right at the start of the 3rd round he dropped me with a massive head kick, I made the count and came back strong in the round but dominated him in round 4 & 5 smashing him with body shots, big sweeps etc, I was cut 3 times across my head and eyes and he had a horrible push kick that he kept doing to my face which split my bottom lip clean in half leaving me needing plastic surgery after the fight. But the fact I managed to drag my arse up off the floor and crawl it back to take the win means the world to me.
5. You proved to be the best bantamweight fighters and a former UK no.1. What is the main lesson you have learned during your 24-year career?
Yeah, I think over the course of my carer I’ve been UK no:1 at 2 different weights and been number 1 at 55kgs on 3 separate occasions and number 1 at 53.5kgs also. And one thing I’m very proud of is I never hide away from anyone, I defended my number 1 spot several times, lost it and got it back and always gave people the chance to fight for the spot.
I think the main thing that I have learnt over the years is never ever quit, things aren’t always going to go your way and this sport is hard, don’t let anyone tell you any different. You have to dedicate yourself to it, you can’t half-arse a fight regardless of what discipline it’s in, obviously for us in Thai we use a lot more weapons than most stand up fight sports so we have to prepare for elbows and knee’s to the head so a lot of time and patience is needed, I’ve been fighting at the top level for over 20yrs now and I’m still learning daily. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions, if you’re not getting something the first time or understanding it the best thing you can do is ask your coach, repetition is key.
6. You fought all over the world, what was the hardest fight, where and why?
I’m very very lucky in my career to have been able to take my hobby and turn it into my full-time job & travel the world it doesn’t get much better than that really.
I don’t really have 1 specific fight that sticks out as the hardest fight of my career, there’s a few for different reasons but I’ll pick one as it was a huge learning curve for me and really changed things for me.
In 2005 fresh from beating Damien Trainor for the first time I took on my first Thai opponent Kantipong Tap Ar Guard, He was ranked in the top 5 in both main stadiums in Thailand Rajadamnern & Lumpinee, the current champion at Omnoi Stadium and had 155f and this was to be my 25th fight. At that time Muay Thai was just a hobby to me as I also worked a full-time job, I had managed to become UK number 1 and worked my way up to be English, British & European Champion in that time.
Things quickly changed after this fight though, I stood toe to toe with one of the best Thai’s out there and I loved it, every second of the fight, I lost on points after 5 hard rounds and I was exhausted but I showed I belonged in there with him and I wasn’t out of my depth, it was a crazy fight and really exploded in round 4 where we there was over 50 elbows thrown in that round alone. I got out of the ring buzzing even though I had lost the fight and that was when I decided to quit my job and become a full-time fighter and that’s when everything changed.
It was such a hard gruelling fight but I learnt so much from it.
7. Where do your nicknames The Punisher and Lord of War come from?
So the nickname Punisher came from one of the commentators Malcolm Martin who used work the Master Sken shows that would always be filmed and shown on TV here in the UK on a show called Night Of Kombat and Lord Of War tbh I can’t remember now, but since day 1 I’ve always been known for standing my ground and just having a fight, I’ve never been scared to get hit and will happily stand there and take a few shots just to land my own. I’ve been dropped, cut badly and looked like there was no way back and still managed to pull back a win in a bloodbath and that will never change.
8. You run your gym named Science of 8 located in West Bromwich, what’s the origin of this name and how many champions have you prepared?
Yeah, that’s right I moved to Birmingham in 2013 to work as the head coach at a gym down there, after a couple of years things came to an end after some disagreements with the owner and I already had my own promotions company Science Of 8 Promotions so just made sense to stick with the theme and the gym was born.
I had just had my first show and luckily the venue I had used very kindly let me use it for a few months while I found a building but yes the very next day after leaving my old employer I held the first class down at the venue and had around 40 people in it.
Within 6 months I had 6 active juniors who were out fighting every weekend and smashing it with 5 of them ranked no:1 and the other 1 ranked no:2 and already had an A-class adult ranked in the 55kgs division at no:5 so we weren’t doing badly.
In the first year alone as a gym we had 134 fights with only around 20 losses, had A-class fighters compete in Portugal twice and 3 of our adults compete in Italy at the European Championships coming away with a Gold, Silver & a Bronze medal.
By the time I closed the gym to move back to Leeds and refocus on my fight career we had 15 junior British titles, 2 A-class ranked fighters each with British Titles a Pro-Am British Champion, and 3 adult European Champs all in just under 2 years so as a whole id say the gym and all the amazing members/fighters totally smashed it.
9. What is favourite technique which served you a lot during your pro career?
My favourite technique is the left hook to the body, for me, my body shots are what have got me out of trouble and turned fights around and back in my favour, I hit the same spot every time and I ware people down with it which lets me take over and dominate in the later rounds.
10. Can you give some tips to beginners starting in May Thai?
I think the most important thing is to find a good gym and coach, research the gym and the actual coaches to make sure that they are legit. And secondly and most importantly don’t put too much pressure on yourself and enjoy it, get in the gym and have fun learning new skills.
11. What is the next step for Andy Howson?
So last year I signed a 6 fight deal with the biggest promotion in the world today One Championship. So far I have had just 1 fight for the company and unfortunately came out second best against a tough young Australian boy Josh Tonna who’s was on a good 3 fight win streak win One in the higher weight division. I had only had 1 fight in the last 5yrs before my One debut so lack of ring time showed I think but the better man won on the day and I’m fine with that I loved the fight regardless.
I have 5f left on my contract and I can safely say I won’t be fighting this year, tbh I think due to the virus all fight shows will not be happening at any point this year, I really hope I’m wrong but it’s not looking good, I’m also about to turn 41yrs old the end of May so time is not on my side, I’ve been riddled with severe injuries for years but I’m determined to see out my contract with One.
Alongside fighting I love coaching at the gym and pad working all the fighters, at Bad Company we have an amazing Junior team and it’s great helping those guys out and padding Liam, Joe etc is great, I love helping padding the guys alongside Richard.
12. Can you name three favourite champions you follow and maybe learned from?
So my favourite fighters kind of some up why I fight the crazy way I do. I loved to watch Bovy Sor Udomson & Pornsaneh Sitmonchai who are both absolutely crazy rock hard warfighters and so exciting to watch and never in a dull fight and that’s definitely had an influence on why I fight as I do.
And my third would be Samkor Kiatmontep when we first started to train myself & Liam both used to sit and watch his fights every day.