Mick Tobin

On the back of the Wish You Were Here exhibition and book, we look at one of the first lads to make a name for himself outside the football scene. Mike Tobin was one of the early protagonists of kick boxing and of course featured in the legendary Face magazine.

East Leeds Magazine April 2013

“Not a lot of people know this but before I got into Kick Boxing I was rehearsing with an unknown Leeds band who after a few line up changes became the Bridewell Taxis. I’m not musically gifted and I might have held them back for even longer if the bass player Simon Scott hadn’t taken me down to Knuckles Gym on Kirkstall Road where I was introduced to kick boxing. I was about eighteen at the time.”
So music’s loss was kick boxing’s gain as Mike threw his heart and soul into what at the time was a minority sport.

“I started with kick boxing but soon began to focus solely on Thai Boxing and after training at a few different gyms, I ended up in Dewsbury under the tutelage of Sandra Lawson and Master Chana from Thailand. I gained a black belt in 1991 and won the British tilte in the same year.”
For the uninitiated, the difference between Kick and Thai boxing is the use of elbows and knees in Thai Boxing – the science of eight limbs, the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet. As British Champion Mike went on to fight in France, Spain, Hungary, Greece and Holland as well as training in Thailand. He was robbed of the European title in Belgium and eventually finished up with a record of twenty one wins, one draw and one defeat.
“I still think about the European title now, I was all over my opponent and then his coaches started bleating on about a low blow and I was disqualified. The opponent apologised to me after, it was nothing to do with him, he admitted I should have won but at that time trying to get a result in mainland Europe was difficult, you had to knock your opponent out to get a draw.”
During this time Mike started to take a few classes at Tony and John Higo’s gym, one thing led to another and he linked up with Dean White and opened up a Thai Boxing side of the Market District Boys Club. When the MDBC was knocked down he moved a few times before eventually finding a place with enough space on Stanningley Road in Armley.
“I’m an East Leeds lad but it had become a matter of finding a place big enough for us all, which we found in Armley. We’ve a few from the original East Leeds and town centre clubs still training with us for fitness and they’ve passed the baton on to other lads but they come from all over Leeds. We’ve got regional champions and British, European and Commonwealth champions from out of here.”
We finished up with the iconic article in the Face Magazine.
“I don’t know if it had much influence on Thai Boxing outside of Leeds but it certainly did within the city. It came about as I was sponsored by Nicholas Deakin at the time and I think Leeds lad James Brown was working for the magazine at the time. The article was used as flyers and promotional material by an agency and it lead to Calendar doing a documentary on me going to Belgium for the European fight.”
The Nicholas Deakin sponsorship was also responsible for Mick becoming Mike on the Thai Boxing circuit, they reckoned it sounded a little less rough & ready.
“We’ve still got the East Leeds connections, we’re putting on an under 18’s show at East Leeds WMC on 6th April, then a world title fight at the Town Hall on 1st June. There’s about ten ‘Muay Thai’ clubs in an around Leeds, a few of them are ex-students of mine which I think is great, it spreads the word and is good for the sport. We work together with Bad Company who are based on York Road, at grass roots level the sport is fine, it’s just when the different licensing bodies get involved, all wanting their own piece of the action. It’s not a minority sport anymore but until they learn to work together in the eyes of the public it will never have the profile it deserves.”



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  1. Johnny Lake says:

    Mick, sorry Mike, is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Too modest to mention all his charitable work but this lad has given back and then some. Nice to see an old mate doing well.

  2. Hello tobes great to read this article about you,glad you have done well

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