Tyson Hirscher may have travelled nearly 7,000 kilometres for one fight, but was it ever worth it.
The 18-year-old Cranbrook native travelled 6,808 km to Dublin, Ireland for the World Karate and Kickboxing Commission (WKC) World Championships Oct. 4 to 9, claiming gold by unanimous decision in the 16- to 17-year-old, 70-kilogram division.
“[The referee] raised my hand and everyone was cheering,” Hirscher said with a big grin Wednesday afternoon. “It was pretty good.”
The world-stage victory pushed Hirscher’s record to 8-1 — including an undefeated run in 2014 — an impressive accomplishment considering how far he has come in such a short time. After losing his first competitive match, Hirscher has rung off eight consecutive wins.
The young fighter has been honing his skills for four years and remembers a time not so long ago where fighting on the local stage was an immense challenge.
“I went to a tournament in Fernie, it was the provincial try-out for WKC in 2012,” Hirscher recalled. “I wasn’t nearly good enough to go to Ottawa [for the WKC Canadian Championships] or the worlds.
“It was a little three-year journey after that.”
Hirscher knew he had a long road ahead of him and a lot of improvements to make if he were to progress to the national stage. Fighting locally through the Kootenays and across the Alberta border in Calgary, Hirscher battled to get as much experience as he could handle. That eventually led him to an appearance at the WKC Canadian Championships in 2013, where he placed third in his division.
“All the competitors I fought [at the national championships in 2013], they were going to worlds and winning medals,” Hirscher said. “I said, ‘Hey, I could probably do this.’”
Hirscher didn’t compete at the 2013 WKC World Championships, but once 2014 rolled around, from day one, the plan was for the peppy 18-year-old to make his way to Dublin for the season finale in October.
Hirscher’s adventure took him through Williams Lake, B.C., the host of the 2014 WKC B.C. Provincial Championships in March. From there, he qualified for the 2014 WKC Canadian Championships, hosted by Ottawa in May. The top four fighters in each division at the national championships, one of which was Hirscher, moved on to the 2014 WKC World Championships in Dublin.
While most fighters have to work their way through a number of opponents before getting a shot at a medal, Hirscher only had to defeat one foe — Spencer Cunningham, another Canadian — before being crowned world champion.
“We scared off all the other Canadians that qualified,” Hirscher said. “There were two or three other Canadians that qualified [for the world championships] but they knew they weren’t getting a medal if we were there.”
Another competitor from Ireland was slated to fight, but withdrew due to an injury sustained playing rugby. That left Hirscher and Cunningham to duke it out for world supremacy.
The two Canucks went head-to-head in a pair of two-minute rounds with gold on the line. Hirscher edged Cunningham to narrowly win the first round before aggressively taking control in the final round.
“He started getting more tired,” Hirscher said. “I just kept pushing the pace. He would throw a couple punches and a kick, then he would turtle up.
“I just kept hitting him and he kept backing up.”
After the final bell, with both fighters at his side, the referee raised Hirscher’s hand and announced him as champion, by unanimous decision.
Hirscher’s father, Klaus, is his corner man. He has been riding shotgun with his son since the journey began at that first provincial tournament in Fernie.
“You’re on top of the world. You’re just as excited as he is,” Klaus said Wednesday afternoon. “He’s worked hard for it. Like he said, It’s the end of a three-year trip. The next trip will be a lot shorter, because we’ve been there.”
While the victory brings this journey to a close, it also marks the beginning of a new adventure for Hirscher. When he gets back into the arena next, he will be a full-fledged adult fighter.
Hirscher plans to compete on the WKC circuit once again in 2015, moving up to the 18- to 34-year-old, 90-kg division. If the year goes as planned, he will find himself in Orlando, Fla. for the 2015 WKC World Championships.
Until then, he plans to take a month off to rest before getting back into the gym and preparing for his next journey. When he isn’t in the gym, Hirscher works with the Cranbrook bantam ‘B’ boys hockey team as a dryland training coach.
Hirscher wished to thank all of the sponsors who helped get him to the WKC World Championships, in addition to Kru Joel Huncar, master Simon Wachon and his father, Klaus.