Daigle kicked back the years

Bob Daigle, head instructor at Cayman Karate Academy, recently competed in the 49th Boston International Karate Championships and came out a winner in the masters division.

Competitors from dozens of countries took part in the event. A large and talented team from Dublin, Ireland, racked up many first place wins. Mexico was also well represented, taking top honours in many divisions. The USA, not surprisingly, took most of the top awards.

Daigle, 53, initially had no plans of competing again after retiring 15 years ago at age 38. However, he had a trip planned to visit his family in Boston, found out about the tournament there and decided to give it a try.

He sparred with local fighter Troy O’Neil only a few times and once with local kickboxer Ryan Charles. “Thanks to them I shook off some of that ring rust,” Daigle said.

The opening ceremony was impressive as each participating country was announced prior to a parade of nations. “It was nice hearing the Cayman Islands announced and watching the Cayman flag being carried in the opening ceremony,” he said.

Daigle warmed up by sparring with some of the younger black belts from Boston, which helped immensely. The masters division finals matched Daigle and a competitor from Ireland. The crowd roared when Daigle landed a side kick, knocking his opponent off his feet and out of the ring to win 7-0.

“I felt pretty good in that fight,” Daigle said. “My opponent had the reach advantage being taller but did not move fast on his feet.

“It was nice fighting in my home town in front of all my friends. The crowd support was incredible.

“I thought I was done fighting for the day and forgot that all black belt division winners are invited to fight for the grand champion title.”

In the first round of the grand championship eliminations, Daigle was matched against the 18-29-year division black belt champion Adal Cordova Reynaga, a 26-year-old from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

“I watched Reynaga fight earlier and saw he threw a lot of kicks and was acrobatic.”

Reynaga scored first, faking some kicks and then scoring with a punch. Daigle came back with a right hook to the head. Reynaga scored again as Daigle tried to adjust to his timing and speed. “I felt like I was a slight step behind,” Daigle said.

Reynaga faked another kick and landed a straight left punch to Daigle’s head and he went down.

“I did not see the punch. All I know was I was sitting on the floor holding my knee. Apparently the fighter came in and through kicked and landed forward, buckling my knee at the same time he landed a solid punch.

“I was sitting there for a few seconds and was not sure if I could stand well enough to continue. I said to myself: ‘Bob you can’t kick anymore but you can still use your punches’.”

Although down a point, Daigle decided to continue.

“I waited for him to throw the kick again and follow up with a punch. He did and I stepped to the side to avoid it, and when he punched, this time I was ready.”

Reynaga walked into Daigle’s right cross to the chin and crumbled, staying down for a long time. “I thought he might not continue. There is no ten-second count in sport karate like in boxing and kickboxing. Otherwise the fight would be over.”

Reynaga stayed on the outside after that and ended up winning on points.

Daigle said: “Even though I did not beat Reynaga and advanced forward, I felt I earned his respect and showed that older fighters can still pack a punch.”

Many new friendships were made with fighters and instructors from around the world. Some of the other veterans knew Daigle from years ago when he ran a successful karate club in Cayman for 14 years, until 2001.

“They all asked if I would ever host an event in the Cayman Islands again. I said we are setting the ground work for that now.”

Daigle dedicated the masters division win to his son Alex, who turned 20 years old the same day.

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