Fight veteran Chris Collard has come full circle. Starting out as a boxer in 1993, he went on to win Australian and world kickboxing titles, before switching to Muay Thai and competing in Thailand’s prestigious King’s Cup.
Having now returned to traditional boxing for a while, the Melbourne-based 27 year old is preparing for a fight under the watchful eye of trainer Long John McCubbin. Whoever takes on this formidable Nyoongar fulla in the ring better watch out ” Chris can take a beating, and give as good as he gets.
A bricklayer by trade, Chris was born in Perth but grew up in Fremantle. One of eight children, he enjoyed sporting pursuits while at school, playing both basketball and Aussie rules. On weekends he played for Cockburn Football Club as a wing.
“I followed West Coast Eagles as a kid and would watch them on TV whenever I got the chance,” recalls Chris. “The Matera brothers were my favourites. I got interested in boxing after seeing Lionel Rose in Against the Odds, who inspired me a lot. Laurence Austin was also an inspiration.”
At the age of 19 Chris was invited to have a go at boxing by a promoter. Winning his debut bout, he realised he had talent and so began training in earnest. Over the next couple of years he had 10 fights, of which he won eight.
Chris relocated to Melbourne in 1995 and embarked on a bricklaying apprenticeship. Two years later he switched to kickboxing and successfully fought for the vacant national light-heavyweight title in Adelaide. He was Australian kickboxing champion at the tender age of 23.
Dropping down a division a year later, he nabbed the South Pacific middleweight title for modified Muay Thai, and followed it up with the Australian middleweight kickboxing title.
In 1999 Chris successfully fought a Croatian contender at Collingwood Town Hall to take the world middleweight kickboxing title.
“He broke my jaw in the fourth round but I continued to fight to the end,” he says. “I knocked him down four times during the fight, but he kept getting off the canvas and coming back at me.”
In spite of all the carnage, it was a very special night for Chris.
“There were a lot of Aboriginal people from the local community there to support me. Lionel Rose was there and he presented me with the world title belt. It was one of the best moments of my career because he has been someone I’ve always looked up to.”
Having previously dabbled in modified Muay Thai, Chris converted to Muay Thai in 2000 and was offered some fights in Japan. Living in Togane, a town not far from Tokyo, he fought three bouts as a welterweight and won them all by knockouts.
Chris earned good money from the fights, but was forced to return to Australia after three months due to visa restrictions. The following year he returned to Japan to fight a further two bouts, of which he won one and drew the other.
After more fights back in Melbourne, Chris headed for a training camp on the Thai island of Koh Samui to improve his technique.
“Koh Samui is a beautiful island and where I trained was close to the beach,” he says. “I love Thailand. The people are great and very supportive.”
After some intense training, Chris travelled to the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, for a fight, which he lost on points. Next he scored a knockout win in Macau, China, and another win in Thailand.
“When I fought in Prague it was snowing and was freezing cold,” he recalls. “I didn’t get to do much sightseeing but I remember that the architecture was great. China was also very cold. I remember eating chook’s feet and lamb’s balls. It wasn’t all that nice.”
A high point came when Chris was selected to the Australian team for the King’s Cup in July. Catering to both professional and amateur fighters, this premier competition awards gold, silver and bronze medals to winners in each weight division.
Although defeated on points in the first round, Chris was delighted to have been given the opportunity to compete.
“It was an honour for me to fight for my country,” he says. “Unfortunately I wasn’t in shape and could have been fitter. But I’m in training again and I want to stay as active as possible.”
Trainer Don Miller regards Chris as one of the toughest and hardest fighters he’s ever come across.
“He’s fought five Japanese champions, knocking out four of them and fighting a draw with the other,” says Don. “He has enormous heart and if he showed a bit more commitment and dedication to training he could be absolutely anything.”
Out of 28 fights to date, Chris has won 18, 12 by knockout. He’s also travelled the world and reached sporting pinnacles he’d never dreamed he could. He puts it down to commitment and dedication, and hopes others can learn from his example.
“I want young kids to know what I’ve achieved and that if I can do it, so can they,” he says. “I want to be an inspiration to them and let them know they can achieve whatever they want in life.”