Ring is calling Tompkins again

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

It takes two seconds to figure out that Shawn Tompkins is in the gym.

It's mid-afternoon and as you walk into the gym you can hear the explosions of fists and feet on the heavy bag. Big, thumping blows that sound like someone beating a hanging rug on a clothesline are accompanied by grunts, squeaks and sounds that only come from a human pushing his body to another level.

It goes on at a steady pace for three minutes, a short break, then another three minutes. By the end of the day, he will have worked out in one fashion or another for six hours.

If an inanimate object can feel pain, that bag has to be hurting.

Tompkins, 30, is the driving force behind Team Tompkins Kickboxing. He has a stable of 22 professional martial arts fighters and a large group of individuals who focus on fitness and self-defence.

Tompkins manages and trains the professional fighters, several of whom hold championships with various organizations. Tompkins himself was a professional fighter and held two North American and one Canadian crown before retiring from the ring three years ago.

The lure of competition has proven too much for him. That's why he's spending so much more time in the gym. Tompkins wants one more kick at the proverbial kickboxing game. He will join K-1, one of the best martial arts organizations in the world, and work toward its big show in Tokyo at the Tokyo Dome next year.

In the meantime, he'll be trained by Duke Rufus, a long-time, well-known fighter for bouts in Milwaukee and New York City. Rufus was a hero of Tompkins as he was growing up.

Tompkins is from Tillsonburg. He began karate when he was six and had fought professionally since he was 18. He's had 37 sanctioned fights and 49 in total. You can determine on your own the nature of the other 12 bouts.

He will fight K-1 as a heavyweight. He's now at 212 pounds and wants to get to 225. His legs are a mass of corded muscle, his thighs resemble small tree trunks.

"I've been training hard," Tompkins said. "I feel better than I ever have. I'm injury-free, very confident with low stress.

"When you're younger, you put a lot of things on your back. You're more worried about how you look and who's watching. Now I just want to fight the highest quality of fighter."

Tompkins has developed fighters such as Londoners Sam Stout and Nick Rondinelli as well as Windsor student Mark (The Machine) Hominiuk, who all hold titles. It gives him an advantage when it comes to training. It also helps that he has his own gym.

He was driven back to the ring when he was hired by K-1 to handle tryouts for potential fighters.

"As I worked with these guys, I realized they may have great builds but they were very green," Tompkins said. "I come in as a short fighter. I'm only five-foot, 10 inches. I'll fight as a heavyweight at 225.

"I've got one shot and I'm going to try and make it to the top. I could come out of retirement and fight in mediocre divisions. Not interested. I have no fear of winning or losing. I just want to compete against the best."

Tompkins isn't fooling around. He's hired a coach, a nutritionist, a boxing coach and a fitness trainer.

"No elite athlete can get to where they are going without a good coach or manager," he said. "I'm very motivated, very self-driven but I know there's always more, always something else there and you need a good coach to get you there."

Tompkins knew he would eventually give this kind of fighting another shot.

"Fighting has been like a fire in my heart," he said. "It's one thing to walk in the ring with my fighters, give them a vote of confidence, tell them they're champions and give them a hug and stand outside and watch them do their work. But there's always been a piece of me that wants to be that fighter.

"There comes a time when it's time to say enough is enough, but I'm 30 years old and I have a lot more."


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