Israel Vs. Iran with gloves
On the Red corner a Jewish Israeli Shuki Rosenzweig 40 wearing short pants covered by Israeli blue and white flags and his sponsors EL-Al Israeli airlines logo.
On the Blue corner Valdet Gashi, 25 a Iranian religious Muslim, his head covered with a red kaffiyah and a beard covers his face.
The origin of Thai boxing is a soldier technique aimed to kill the enemy. The Thai boxing sport is more delicate but still very dangerous. It is a full contact martial art using 8 different parts of the human body to attack the opponent with.
Both boxers pray before their match starts. Rosenzweig saying ‘Shma Israel’ in Hebrew and Gashi prays in Arabic. Then they dance traditionally around the ring, touch hands and the fight starts. It is a world championship final match. A professional fight between two old friends: Jewish Israeli vs. Iranian Muslim living in Germany.
Fast & Furious
The fight starts slow but gradually becomes fast and furious. The Israeli is wounded. His right hand hurt and blood appears over a cut in his right eyebrow. Gashi is younger heavier and hungry to win. In the last rounds both fighters scored points punching and kicking each other. It is hard to determine who is ahead of whom. The Thai scoring system mostly count on the third and fourth rounds – the middle of the fight. Everybody is tense watching the fight.
Some supporters in the crowd see Rosenzweig as the hope of the State of Israel, against the Iranian German Muslim fighter stepping into the ring wearing kaffiyah over his head and a beard without a mustache covers his face. They shout: ‘long lives the state of Israel’ and ‘Israel shall prevail’. Gashi’s supporters shout back: ‘defeat the Israeli’ and ‘break him into pieces’
Rosenzweig lives in Bangkok coaching and also fighting despite his relatively old age for the Thai boxing sport field. He arrived in Thailand 11 years ago following a childhood dream: “At the age of 12 I read an article about Joe Louis known as the Brown Bomber. Since then all I wanted is to be like him. An honest hardworking fighter rose from a tough neighborhood above racism to become an American hero. At the end of my IDF military service, my parents wanted me to join the family business selling fish in Jerusalem. But I had to obey my heart and follow my dream. So I flew to Los Angeles and practiced kickboxing in Benny Urquidez (The Jet) center. Then I discovered the Thai Boxing and flew to Holland to practice there. After running a Thai Boxing gym back in Israel for a few years, I flew to a fresh start in Thailand - the birth land of the ‘Muay Thai’ martial art”
Gashi is a religious Muslim praying at a mosque close to his Thai Boxing gym. Rosenzweig prays nearby in the synagogue of the Bangkok Jewish community. Rosenzweig and Gashi are good friends. From time to time they practice boxing together. Among Rosenzweig supporters there are many Iranian boxers - fellow members at his gym.
Three rounds are over. The bell rings and starts the third round. The Thai band plays the traditional fighting theme. Both fighters are tired. Rosenzweig known as the White Lion, jumps on his opponent.
Fighters hug each other in a lethal grip. Pushed away and clinch again. Gashi is taking Rosenzweig down. Then push him to the ropes. But then the white lion wakes up. He attacks again and again moving fast using all last drops of energy left in him. Gashi is down falling once and twice on the ring floor.
When the fifth round is over Rosenzweig hand is raised up. The announcer says loudly: The winner is Shuki Rosenzweig from Israel – a new world champion.
Rosenzweig is the new double world champion of WMA (=World Muay Thai Association) and MFA (=World Muay Thai Federation) leagues in 147 pounds (66.8 Kg) weight.
Rosenzweig: “It was a hard fight against well experienced fellow boxer, younger and hungry to win. But my heart pushed me forward to winning with the help of god. I bring proud to my Jewish people ‘Shma Israel Adonai Eloheino..’ that helped me win from above. It was a fight against a very good close friend that believes in the same god I believe in. All the rest is not important”
Gashi “It was a fair fight. It was a hard fight against a friend on the ring who is also a good friend outside the ring. My family is not religious. I came closer to Islam as an adult. We both pray to the same god and eat kosher and halal food together”
Fighters’ wise warm voices against some supporter voices probably reflect the feelings of Jewish and Muslim arriving in the championship this day: The throats may spark some anger but the heart s dream of professional sport matches to come, sending warm hugs of hope for peace.
The International Thai Boxing Championship took place on Wednesday night 27 April 2011 in central Bangkok, days before the holocaust memorial day in Israel. Both fighters are still friends.
Hope to hear more stories about friendship and less about enemies