Meet The Fighter - Stephen Wakeling
Published on Jul 29, 2013
Timing, ferocity, ruthlessness - Stephen Wakeling’s GLORY debut in March this year was a master-class in all three.
He finished ‘Road to GLORY’ runner-up Eddie ‘Showtime’ Walker with perfectly-placed kicks, smashing them into his lead leg again and again until the Atlanta, Georgia man was literally unable to stand up any longer.
It was a fitting way for Wakeling (37-4-1, 15 KO’s) to begin his career with the world’s premier kickboxing league. One of the world’s top Muay Thai fighters, he is known as ‘The Surgeon’ because of his precision in the ring.
Wakeling has held the esteemed WBC Muay Thai title twice, plus other world titles and numerous European and British championships. His father was a Muay Thai fighter who once competed in the King’s Cup in Thailand and his brother has also held European titles.
Despite coming from such pedigree stock and having so many achievements in his career, Wakeling still found the GLORY rules to be a learning curve. Unlike Muay Thai there is no prolonged clinching and fighters go all-out from the opening bell.
“It was a learning experience in terms of the pace of the fight, how fast the GLORY fights are and how busy you have to be,” Wakeling says of the GLORY 5 LONDON fight.
“The way you have to fight is different to Muay Thai. You have to be much more active, much more aggressive and go out there looking to finish fights rather than just racking up the points.”
In recent years, Wakeling has been rather inactive. He says this is down to being unable to find fights, or having promoters offer him opponents and purses far below what he is worth. In essence, he dominated his weight class to the extent that there was hardly anyone left worth fighting.
The GLORY call came at the right time for Wakeling. Having gone as far as he could with Muay Thai, the kickboxing world looked interesting. Regular fights, good purses and a new challenge all seemed attractive.
“I’m much happier, it means I can stay in shape and not get too out of shape wondering when things will be coming up,” he says.
“It’s hard to stay motivated if you aren’t going to be fighting or you don’t know when you’ll be fighting, or fights keep falling through. With GLORY you’ve got contracts and regular fights so you stay motivated and ready for your next one.”
The ‘next one’ will be against Joe ‘Stitch ‘Em Up’ Schilling (14-4) in the GLORY 10 four-man middleweight tournament in Los Angeles, California on September 28. The tournament also features Artem Levin and Jason Wilnis.
Schilling has said that he has attempted to get matches with Levin and Wakeling numerous times, but for one reason or another, the bouts never happened. He credits the pair as the two top fighters in his weight class and wants to test himself against both.
Assessing the threat posed by Wakeling, Schilling conceded that the UK man has extremely hard body-kicks but professed the opinion that Wakeling’s movement is a potential weaknesses and that his leg-kicks - which are a huge part of the kickboxing arsenal - don’t seem that hard.
“I use the body kick a lot because that’s the highest scoring technique under Muay Thai rules. As for power, I guess he will find out on the night what’s powerful and what’s not. I’ve got a lot more to show him than body kicks,” Wakeling responds.
“The Thai style is completely different to GLORY rules so it’s a different type of movement. I’ve been working on things like that to suit the GLORY rules so I think he’s going to find my movement is a lot better than he expects. I think he will see something different to what he’s seen on tape.”
“Schilling likes to trash talk people and try to put them down. I’ve seen him fight a couple of times, he is quite tall and he’s got decent hands but I see a lot of weaknesses in his game. I don’t think he’s that experienced.
“I will fight anybody! I’ve never run from anybody, never hid from anybody. I’m here in GLORY now, they’ve asked me to fight him and I’ve agreed. We’re going to fight now and that’s it.”
Also on the radar in the GLORY 10 tournament is a potential rematch with Artem ‘The Lion’ Levin (45-3, 33 KO’s). Wakeling fought the world-ranked number one under Muay Thai rules last year and the fight ended in a controversial draw.
Wakeling was extremely unhappy with the result and is hoping to get redress if they meet again in the tournament.
“The fight was ruled a draw when I think, in my opinion, under Thai rules I completely dominated the fight and I should have won on points,” he explains.
“Levin is a good fighter, he has been at the top for a long time. He is number one in GLORY and I want to rematch him and beat him so that I can become number one and also to make up for that draw I got handed last time.
“Does all his showboating bother me? Well, he does like to showboat, he does it a lot, to bring the crowd on and try to intimidate the opponent. It doesn’t work on me though.
“Actually a lot of people showboat when they get hurt or they are under pressure and something is bothering them. A lot of the time it’s a front to put the opponent off.”
The tournament’s other fighter is something of an unknown to Wakeling, although he has seen enough of him to know that he will have a fight on his hands if they meet in the ring.
“Wilnis, I’ve only seen a few clips of. He looks like he has got powerful hands and is a knockout fighter but other than that I don’t know too much about him,” he shrugs.
Since the fight with Walker in March, Wakeling has been concentrating on the construction firm he owns. The company has had “a huge job” on the go and Wakeling says he has been putting in “nearly 16 hour days” on occasion in order to get the project finished.
He is about to start his full training camp for the September event. Fighting in Los Angeles is a dream come true for ‘The Surgeon’.
“I’m looking forward to fighting in the US, its somewhere I’ve always wanted to fight. Its home to a lot of fight fans so I am hoping to put on a good performance for them. It’s exciting for me and with GLORY expanding in the US it’s an exciting time for the sport as well,” he says.
GLORY 10 will take place in Los Angeles, California on September 28. it hosts a four-man middleweight tournament featuring world number one Artem Levin, close rival Stephen Wakeling, US standout Joe Schilling and Dutch knockout artist Jason Wilnis.