The martial arts world lost another legend today as ‘The Diamond’ Ramon Dekkers passed away at just 43 years of age.
Dekkers came from the historic Netherlands city of Breda, scene of many a battle in the turbulent medieval period. Fittingly, he wrote his own name large in the annals of combat with a career that saw him spearhead the arrival of serious European competitors on the fierce Muay Thai circuit in Thailand.
Any energetic and restless child, it was the relationship between his mother and the trainer Cor Hemmers which was to shape his life. Dekkers had been training with Hemmers for a few months when his mother and his coach became close to the point of starting a relationship.
When Dekkers’ mother became Mrs Hemmers, Ramon and Cor became embarked on a journey which would ultimately see Dekkers receiving awards from the Thai royal family and ensure his place in the list of all-time Muay Thai and kickboxing greats. To this day, older Thai fight fans look back on Dekkers’ time in the ring with nostalgia.
The then-young Dutchman brought a ferocity and a boxing game which the Thais were largely unused to. Before most of his early matches, you couldn’t get a bookmaker to take a bet on him. By the end of his career, you couldn’t get one to bet against him.
Dekkers’ style was characterized by relentless forward pressure, a complete disregard for his own safety and a desire to see the fight finish inside the distance. This latter point in particular was a rarity among Muay Thai fighters and served to endear him to the large gambling community which keeps the sport afloat in its native land.
In the end his official record stood at 186 wins, with 95 of them by knockout, plus 33 losses and 2 draws. Even allowing for the fact that there are a good number of fights missing from the record, especially early career fights, it is clear to see that Dekkers was something special and an all-time great in the way that Pele or Michael Jordan were to their sports.
I had the privilege of meeting Dekkers recently and found him to be an affable and likeable man, possessing a big character but not being overbearing with it. Fighters and fans alike wanted his time and attention and he was happy to give it as he shook hands, posed for pictures and recounted anecdotes in an unhurried manner.
In recent years Dekkers had wound down his training and while he would occasionally drop into Golden Glory headquarters in Breda to show the fighters a thing or two, he was more often to be found riding his mountain bike out in the countryside which surrounds his home city.
A passionate character, biking soon came to occupy as much of his time and attention as training had done. Dekkers would go on long, rambling rides with more than a few risky pathways thrown in to make it interesting and keep his attention sharp.
It seems that after one of these rides he returned home, felt faint and then collapsed into an unconsciousness he would never wake up from. Only hours before he went out on his final ride he had posted a message on his Twitter account, a happy and optimistic look forwards towards a bright future and the GLORY organization for which he was an ambassador.
“How exciting the future looks for kickboxing… Glory: London, Glory: Istanbul, Glory: Milan!” he wrote, referencing upcoming events being staged by the Glory organization for which Cor Hemmers is matchmaker and a key executive.
In his lifetime Dekkers taught many lessons. He taught martial artists about courage, strength and determination against all odds. He taught the Thai fighters that they were sole lords of the ring no longer. He taught angry young men everywhere that Muay Thai could provide them with the discipline and structure they need.
And today, at 43 years old, he taught his final lesson – that life is short and not to be taken for granted. That if we have dreams we should pursue them; That regardless of what anyone tells us, the impossible is possible, and that if you put all your efforts into something, one day you will die, but your name might live forever in the hearts and minds of those who come after you.