by CJ Butler
On the night of Saturday, November 24, 2018, after months of training, Shannon Hogan was preparing to enter the fight ring for the first time. Every table was sold out, and it was standing room only in the Aberdeen Pavilion, for the biggest Muay Thai fight event Ottawa has seen – Muay Thai Kickboxing, Live at Lansdowne, and the buzz was palpable.
Shannon had spent most of the day getting into her zone, following routine, moving her body, and as the evening approached, cocooned with her hoodie pulled up listening to music. By the time she followed her coach out from the change rooms, weaving through the packed venue towards the ring, she was at a level of consciousness and body awareness that she had never experienced before.
“It felt like where I belonged,” says Shannon. And, as she swung her leg over the ropes in the blue corner, she felt she had won already; by stepping into the ring, she proved wrong everyone who had ever doubted or discouraged her.
It had been a long road leading to that night, previous coaches holding her back from actually competing; but when she met her current coach, Khris Collins at The Kemptville Training Centre, he asked her the question she wanted to hear; ‘Do you want to fight?’ Then there were 18 months of sparring, exhausting hill running, and gruelling gym workouts, all of which intensified in the extreme during the eight weeks running up to November 24.
“It seems weird to say it, but this past eight weeks has been the most intense self-care I have ever given myself,” she says. “I am a completely different person to how I was, once upon a time. The training I have gone through, particularly the final eight weeks, has transformed me.”
Passionate about mental and physical health, she’s a positive person who gives a lot of herself and her time to help others get better and to be better. Her day job with Victim Services sees her working with victims of crime to rebuild their lives, and in her other leisure time (when she’s not in training), she rides horses and helps other riders gain confidence and trust in their equine companions. She’s also an inspirational assistant coach to Muay Thai new-comers, at The Kemptville Training Centre.
“Sparring with men was an issue when I first started, but this training is the best thing I ever did for myself,” says Hogan, who has herself been a victim of abuse. Now she’s eager to share the self-esteem she has gained through the sport, learning to physically defend herself, and hopes that she can attract and coach new participants (particularly women) in an unintimidating environment.
The run-up week to the fight came with its surprises; opponents in her weight class were suddenly unavailable, and the fight became an exhibition fight (if you’re not fighting in your weight class, it doesn’t count on your fight record). But even more of a surprise on the night was at weigh-in, when her opponent, a seasoned fighter with some wins under her belt, weighed in at a whopping 275lbs (to Hogan’s 159.6lbs). It didn’t matter. Nothing was going to turn her away at the brink of her first fight.
It felt like an eerie quiet before the storm as she climbed into the ring, but she felt relaxed and began her warm up routine. “It felt like where I was supposed to be. I was calm and in a zone I have never felt before,” she says.
Her opponent was slower, but her weight advantage seemed to absorb the very first blow, and the punches she threw were “like being hit by a train…” as Shannon confirms. Still standing in the final round, there was another thing working for her, in addition to the training; her extra senses were on fire that night, and she had a feeling for what her opponent was going to do, before she did it. “It’s the same when I ride horses, but this was enhanced. I knew how she would move next, and I knew she was going to open my nose before it happened, but I was too tired to react fast enough.”
The punch which spelled the beginning of the end had her nose dripping with blood (there’s no blood allowed in exhibition fights), and the fight was called 51 seconds into the third round.
Despite not being the victor, her sense of achievement was enormous. In her first fight before a mass of people, she had stood her ground into the final round against an experienced opponent who was the best part of twice her weight – a real-life David vs Goliath. “That fight was the most exhilarating, liberating, and fun thing I have ever done,” she says.
Other key support came from her family and friends, and they were there to celebrate with her afterwards; and best friend (also training buddy), Ashley, came with Hogan’s requested post-fight treat: Cap’n Crunch and sour Skittles.
What’s next? She’s training hard once again for the first fight to count on her fight record, at the event, Art of War 3: Muay Thai at The Canadian War Museum, on February 23.