Irish karateka Eoghan Chelmiah made history on Thursday night, becoming the first Irish fighter to win a professional karate world championship and the first fighter ever to win the Karate Combat World Bantamweight Championship.
With the fight televised nationally across the USA on the CBS Sports Network and across Europe and Asia by the Eurosport network, millions of fight fans worldwide watched Chelmiah take possession of the belt.
Chelmiah, of Laois, Ireland, went five hard-fought rounds with Ilies Mardhi, a member of the French national team, before winning the fight by TKO when Mardhi was unable to answer the bell for the start of the sixth round.
It was a dramatic finish: Karate Combat championship fights are set for five rounds, but the ringside judges are able to order an extra round to be fought where scoring has been close.
Chelmiah sprang to his feet to begin the sixth round, but Mardhi told referee Marc Goddard that he was unable to continue due to having broken his right hand in the preceding round.
With Mardhi having withdrawn due to injury, the result was a Technical Knockout (TKO) in favor of Chelmiah.
“Definitely feels good and it’s here to stay. Honestly, I don’t see myself being beaten anytime soon,” said Chelmiah after taking possession of the Karate Combat World Championship belt.
“At the same time, you work extremely hard to get here and that’s not the way you want to win. But I have no doubt we will run this back. I want to fight him again, set the record straight. I want to finish him or beat him in a way that leaves no arguments by anyone.”
Advantage had passed back and forth between the pair in the five rounds they fought. Mardhi’s trademark in-and-out style allowed him to score consistently in the early rounds, until Chelmiah took control and started wearing him down with relentless forward pressure.
“This guy was a little more frustrating than the previous ones. It was difficult tracking him down to land those landing bigger shots. But I guess after opponents have seen you demolishing guys, they are going to want to run. That’s something I’m going to have to adapt to,” said the new champion.
“I didn’t feel under too much pressure in there. I didn’t feel any sting or power on his punches or kicks. One or two might have got through, but nothing I can’t handle. I felt I was the one pushing this fight, I feel like he was just reacting.”
As well as being a world champion black belt, Chelmiah is also a PhD Engineering student at the Carlow Institute in Ireland and is working towards his doctorate.
He will now return to his studies and await news of his first title defense, which may come before the end of 2021.
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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