Hall Of Fame honour for kickboxing guru O’Keefe

Russ OKeefe (second right) with his award and Fighting Fit club members who supported him, from left, Craig Schmitz, Dean King and Josh Shaw.
Russ OKeefe (second right) with his award and Fighting Fit club members who supported him, from left, Craig Schmitz, Dean King and Josh Shaw.

One of the most hallowed honours in martial arts has been presented to a former British kickboxing champion who lives in Kilburn.

Russ O’Keefe, who has fought back from serious illness to re-launch a kickboxing club, received a special Hall Of Fame award for his services to the sport over 27 years and also for producing a number of top-class fighters through his coaching.

The awards ceremony was hosted by ‘Martial Arts Illustrated’ magazine. And now, by means of celebration, Russ is planning a spectacular comeback in the ring later this year.

“He was very shocked, but honoured,” said proud wife Rachael. “He shared the stage with some highly respected people, including a martial arts film star, a former Olympic judo champion and several grand masters of the sport.

“I am so proud of him and what he has achieved. It’s amazing to see the difference the club makes, and the confidence and friendship it brings. You can tell Russ does it for the love of the sport.”

The club, Fighting Fit Kickboxing, began again last year. It was such an instant success that it outgrew its base in Kilburn and has since moved to a purpose-built gym, Wragsters, in Ripley.

It continues to thrive, and in October, a team of six fighters, including Craig Schmitz, Callum Shelbourn, Josh Shaw, James Maguire and Ebony Upton, will represent Britain at the Martial Arts Unified World Cup Open in Spain. The sixth is Russ himself, who is training hard for what would be his first fight for more than a decade.