Mike “300” Demetriou smiled casually as his trainer struggled to rip off his glove.
Demetriou had just gone five tough rounds with Derek Harvey, a man his physical equal but by far his senior in experience, and they were awaiting the judges’ verdict.
Earlier, intimidating hip-hop music had pounded while the master of ceremonies announced Demetriou’s arrival.
Despite the fanfare, Demetriou calmly and sedately entered the ring and respectfully acknowledged his opponent and the gathered crowd.
There was no pomp or ceremony, as is consistent with his quiet, humble personality.
Demetriou stood casually, one arm leaning on the ropes, as the referee reiterated the rules of engagement.
He then went into a quiet head-to-head with his trainer Don Millar to receive final instructions.
It seemed strange that this peaceful, almost zen moment was about to erupt into a Full Thai kickboxing battle.
And then the bell rang, and it was on.
Both fighters came out kicking, landing blows to each other’s thighs and bodies.
A painful-looking red bruise quickly appeared under Harvey’s right arm after repeated blows from Demetriou’s killer left foot.
Mike “300” would continue to target this spot for the duration of the fight.
It became clear very early that both Demetriou and Harvey would both be heavily reliant on their kicking and grappling, as there were almost zero punches thrown in the first round.
Mike “300” landed the first heavy blow of the second, another bruising left foot to Harvey’s right shoulder.
He followed this with a mighty left foot to Harvey’s head, having caught his opponent’s foot.
After taking heavy punishment in the second Harvey went down, regaining his feet just on the buzzer.
Both fighters were guarded in the third round with Demetriou focused defensively on blocking out Harvey’s gloves and elbows.
There were more clinches, with both fighters trying to land knees and elbows in the grapple.
Demetriou bloodied Harvey’s nose, while Harvey targeted Demetriou’s right thigh.
The fourth round saw both fighters clearly tiring. It was an even round with Demetriou taking the judges’ fancy.
The fifth seemed almost a formality, with both fighters embracing to congratulate each other on a great bout, before launching back into battle.
There was lots of grappling, with Harvey landing a powerful left glove on Demetriou’s chin right on the final bell.
And then it was over, without a clear winner.
The crowd tensely awaited the judges’ decision while Mike “300” struggled to get his gloves off.
His reaction was underwhelming as the referee raised his arm, announcing that the three judges had unanimously awarded him the fight, 50-45 49-46 49-46.
“I knew it was close and I thought I might have lost. He came home a lot stronger than I did, I had nothing,” Demetriou said later in the change rooms, sitting with his broken toe – which he broke in his previous fight – in an ice bucket.
“I knew he was tired as well because I could hear him breathing really deeply, but he kept throwing punches at me,” he said.
Trainer Don Millar was realistic about the win. “It wasn’t his best fight,” Millar said. “I’ve been in Thailand for two weeks so I had under a week to get him ready.”
“I feel that if it wasn’t for the big uppercut elbow in the second it could’ve gone Derek’s way, or it could have been a draw because he was a bit flat later on in the fight. But a win’s a win and I’m happy for that.”
Mike “300” Demetriou will now take a break from fighting to ensure that his broken toe heals before a big bout in Greece in November.
He will then move into full-time training in Thailand in preparation for a big year in 2010.