BY KIERAN McCARTHY
ONE of the most widely respected referees in Irish kickboxing, Mike Stephenson from Bantry, was honoured at the annual Cork Martial Arts Promotions (CMAP) recently.
The West Cork Kickboxing Club referee was presented with the 2016/17 CMAP Outstanding Contribution Award, deserved recognition for what he has given to the sport over the years.
‘Tony’s a Class A international referee, he is one of the top international referees in the sport and he travels nationally and internationally,’ explained Ian Kingston, head coach at West Cork Kickboxing Club.
‘We’re very lucky in the club to have someone of Mike’s standard and ability and it’s fantastic to see his contribution to the sport recognised. He has given up so much time over the years, whether it’s refereeing or taking his kids to competitions.
‘Just as an example, there was a competition in Dublin the previous weekend, Mike had a car-full of club members who were competing, they left West Cork at 5.30am, got to Dublin for 9.30am, then Mike was refereeing from about 10.30am through to 8pm, and was back in the car for 8.10am and drove the athletes back home to West Cork then. That’s typical of him, he gives up so much time to the sport and he’s also one of the best referees there is.
‘If anyone deserved to win this award, it’s Mike.’
Stephenson – father of the highly rated kickboxer and former world champion, Tony – was presented with his award at CMAP’s big night at the Gresham Metropole Hotel last Saturday.
After receiving the award, he commented: ‘I’ve never received an award before and I’m really humbled, and it’s not in the same category, but people who have received CMAP awards are people I have really looked up to and admired, like Lily de la Cour and Ian Kingston. This is all Ian’s doing, not my doing, I just enjoyed the ride.
‘Mây five kids have been European and wâorld champions,â so I have always been heavily involvâed since they were young, and now the oldest isâ age 25 and twins 18. What I mean is, it hasn’t been hard, I love what I do.
‘We have awards in the house, but my few medals are many years ago, so this award is going to pride of place in our home.’
The awards, in their eighth year, are the brainchild of Leonard Coughlan who is the founder of CMAP. He runs a Tae Kwon Do Academy, withâ schools in Bandon and Mahon.
Meanwhile, West Cork Kickboxing Club’s newest black belt is Ian O’Flynn (14). Ian started with the West Cork club at the age of six, beginning in Bantry, and since then he has won three national titles and competed in the WAKO European and world kickboxing championships.
Ian is now an integral part of the West Cork club, who, as well as doing his own training, is part of the team that teaches the younger club members.
Head coach Ian Kingston was full of praise for young Ian, stating that his attitude, commitment and work rate is an example to all, culminating in his attainment of his black belt in January this year. Coach Tony Stephenson, who Ian has trained with since he started, was delighted with Ian’s achievement, saying it was well deserved. Congratulations also to Luca Roza and Grainne Begley who have attained their second brown belt.