Kieran Keddle on training Idris Elba for his professional kickboxing debut

Two days ago Hollywood actor, Idris Elba, posted an Instagram picture of himself in the sauna with the caption: “Cutting weight, two days before first fight, mind in the right place. Fear NO guy.”

As you can imagine, there has been a media frenzy worldwide and all sorts of reports and rumours about whether the British actor was actually having a professional kickboxing fight, or, if this was simply some kind of gimmick for an upcoming movie or not.

Left to right: Luke Whelan, Idris Elba, Kieran Keddle at Double K Gym

Left to right: Luke Whelan, Idris Elba, Kieran Keddle at Double K Gym

On the K1ANOOP podcast, Idris Elba’s coach, Kieran Keddle (a former three time world Thai boxing champion, Muay Thai Grand Prix promoter, head coach and owner of Double K Gym), confirmed that the reports of Elba fighting in a professional kickboxing fight were true and that the whole experience of Elba’s preparation and eventual fight, is being filmed by the Discovery network for, an upcoming documentary due to air in early 2017.

Idris Elba started training with Kieran Keddle in November 2015 but things didn’t get too serious until the start of this year. The fight is set to happen this October in Thailand under professional ‘K-1’ kickboxing rules which, includes: punches, kicks and knees to the head, body and legs with no head, body or shin protection (apart from 10oz boxing gloves and a gum shield).

Idris Elba’s training for his professional K1 rules debut takes the most recent Star Trek villain and his coach, Kieran Keddle, to various countries around the world, including: Japan, South Africa, Cuba, France, Netherlands, Australia and Thailand which, has all been filmed for the upcoming documentary.

Kieran Keddle spoke in-depth with Anoop Hothi about Idris Elba’s kickboxing ability and his fighting style:

“We’ve actually found that he’s a better kicker than a puncher…and he hits hard but his kicking ability is better than his punching ability”

“Everyone wants to be in thrilling fights but you’ve got then the other side of someone like Semmy Schilt. But let’s look at Semmy Schilt, a four time K-1 winner and a GLORY Grand Slam winner. Wasn’t the most exciting to watch but he got the results and he just used his strengths. You’ve got to weigh up your options. Whatever God gave you I suppose.”

Schilt def. Verhoeven

Semmy Schilt defeats Rico Verhoeven at GLORY 4

“If you’re tall like he is, the jab is everything we’re working off. The jab, jab, jab and of course if its a pepper jab or a strong jab its all leading for giving your range for your legs.”

Idris Elba’s background in marital arts was also cleared up by Kieran Keddle and he described how the two of them were introduced to one another via mutual friend Warren Brown (former Thai boxing champion now actor) and how the documentary came about:

“So what happened is he trained kickboxing 20 years ago and it was a very keep fit like gym and he enjoyed it. And the actual true story is, he did boxing training when he was a kid but his Mum wouldn’t let him do it. So they stopped him doing it and then he went into kickboxing when he was older.”

“It’s something he always wanted to do. He was working on Luther with a good friend of mine and a former world champion, Warren Brown. They got talking and they started training together a little bit…and they stayed in touch.”

Warren Brown and Idris Elba on Luther

Warren Brown and Idris Elba on Luther

“After No Limits series was finished, Discovery turned around to Idris’s production company and everyone around him and said: ‘That was a massive success with hundreds of millions viewers’, went to something like 235 countries, it was massive. ‘Let’s do another season, what else can we do?’ They came up with all these different ideas and Idris went: ‘No, I I want to fight’. The whole thing has been his whole idea.”

“He wants to do it. Guarantee you, hand on heart he wants to do it and to be honest with you, he can do it. He can fight. This is no bullshit or anything like that. Its nothing to do with like, ‘oh you’re getting paid to do it’…or for my ego or whatever that bollocks. It is mainly that he can fight and I want to se him to do well like any student that come into my gym, I want them to do well…He’s been training as much as possible and as hard as possible and I’m hoping the results pay off.”

“We don’t know who his opponent is exactly yet. Its a choice of a few. What’s gonna happen is Idris is gonna have a couple of amateur fights, we hope. I’m gonna gauge whether he’s to have this fight or not. Of course, Discovery and all the people behind us want the fight to happen. I do as well. I think in sparring and the way he’s trained he’s ready to fight but we need to put him in a couple of real life situations and he see how he deals with it.”

Idris Elba kicking the heavy bag with Kieran Keddle overlooking

Idris Elba kicking the heavy bag with Kieran Keddle overlooking

“Theres still 9/10 weeks away and we’ve got Australia and Thailand and I’m literally with him the whole way, give or take a few days. So, I’m hoping to get loads of rounds of sparring in – thats the most important. And that’s also how I think he performs best, with sparring. He likes pad work, he likes all the running. He prefers the real life, someone in-front of him, someone swinging at him…We’ve got a nine week camp ahead of us and I believe he can do it.”

“And the documentary, although its about fighting and thats the reason why myself as a fan would watch and you would watch and a lot of my friends would watch who, are fighters, I think thats only a little bit of it. This program you’re gonna see really what he’s like as a person and thats what I liked about the whole project. And what I’ve learnt along the way about this world that he’s in is crazy and you’ll see it as well.

“And like I said, its not just about the fight. Its about him, you’ll meet his family. You’ll see parts of the world that we go to together but the reasons we go there are not that we go there randomly, we go there for a reason. There’s a story behind everything as well and you’ll get to know his history and he’s open about things because theres a camera there, he’s not holding back.”

David Haye on the wrong end of a playful right hook from Idris Elba

David Haye on the wrong end of a playful right hook from Idris Elba

David Haye (former WBA world heavyweight champion and undisputed world cruiserweight boxing champion) is a friend of his, came to watch him and didn’t think it wouldn’t be real. And then when he started training and hitting pads and things he realised, fuck! This is no WWE thing. This is no put in against someone whose not trained before. He’s going to fight someone who has had fight experience before.”

“He’s going to be 44 when he fights…I’m preparing [sparring partners] now [for Australia]. He goes this weekend [to Australia] and I go the following. So. I’m going to bring in four or five guys. I’m hoping in-between 80 to 100 kgs because he’s about 90kg, he’s a big dude. So, I’m going to sort that all out in the next couple of days but he has been sparring with my boy, Luke Whelan. He’s been sparring with Jack Mason, John McGuire, former UFC fighter. In South Africa he sparred Francois Botha (former IBF world heavyweight champion and K-1 veteran)…and then there’s various other people in the program that you’ll see he spars with. When we go to Thailand we’re going to be bring some people with us as well…it’s exciting.”

Francois Botha defeated K-1 legends, Jerome Le Banner (pictured) and Peter Aerts

Francois Botha defeated K-1 legends, Jerome Le Banner (pictured) and Peter Aerts

“There’s things that have shocked me and been quite controversial and theres an amazing amount of drama. The whole thing which Ive appreciated about is, nothing, nothing has been scripted and its been eye opening. And I think that the most important thing for me is, its going to open up fans to the sport.”

“If a 44 year old man can fight, whether he win, lose, draw or even gets knocked out and commit this kind of training then its going to inspire a lot of people. He does inspire a lot of people anyway, you know. He’s a man that has come from nothing and made himself a Hollywood actor and you’re gonna find out all about that as well so thats pretty cool. So, he’s an inspirational person.”

Watch the full K1ANOOP interview with Kieran Keddle below about Idris Elba training and making his professional kickboxing debut:

About the Author
Anoop Hothi also known as K1ANOOP, is a combat sports writer based in the UK (with a keen eye for K1/Thai rules) and the host of the K1ANOOP podcast. Having initially trained in sport kickboxing as a child, K1ANOOP returned to kickboxing in his adulthood and made the transition from sport kickboxing to K1 rules and Thai boxing. Being a kickboxing martial artist intrigued with improving himself and studying more about the technical aspects of the ‘striking arts’, K1ANOOP started his own blog in 2015 which, swiftly lead to opportunities to write professionally about combat sports for various digital platforms. You can follow K1ANOOP on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube.

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