Young Muay Thai athlete must close the school book before opening a new one

Northern Territory Muay Thai athlete Dante Rodrigues has wrapped up an important chapter in his successful career to date.

The future looks strong for the 17-year-old, but the closure of his junior career has come in less than ideal circumstances.

Rodrigues won K1 Queensland State Titles on the Sunshine Coast in June, adding yet another belt to his well-stocked cabinet.

Two weeks later, he presented to the doctor’s and they found a delayed concussion from the final bout.

He is taking an extended break now to take care of that injury, but his father and coach Astro Rodrigues said it’s a good time for reflection.

“We have to reassess. And when he comes back, he’ll be a senior,” Mr Rodrigues said.

“We will open a new book and see where it takes us.”

The teenager has stunned the Muay Thai world with several underdog wins, including winning the NT Title against a 27-year-old in January this year.

Last year, he represented Australia at the junior Kickboxing World Titles in Italy and took home silver – the highest honour of his junior career.

Turning 18 at the end of the year will mean Dante has a few decisions to make about which direction he takes.

He can stick at the K1 division – a fight with restrictions on the techniques you can use (e.g. no elbows) – or he can step up to contest at the World Boxing Council (WBC) Muay Thai circuit.

“The WBC is heavily regulated. To qualify for a chance at a World Title, you need to win local events, then state, then national, then Oceania. Fighters die for the green and gold belt – everyone wants one,” Mr Rodrigues said.

Figuratively, of course, not literally. A WBC Title is the top of the sport and it’s not out of reach for someone with Dante’s potential.

But Mr Rodrigues said they’re not making any decisions yet. For now, it’s all about school.

“School’s important. More important than fighting … He will have a week in New Zealand on holiday with his mum next week and then he’ll focus on finishing Year 12. We’re not making any decisions yet. School first, and then we’ll sit down and have a look at what’s in his next book,” Mr Rodrigues said.

“Whatever happens, the whole family is very proud.”

By Keiran Deck

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