June 11, 2012
CES Press Release--Against all odds, rising star Soukhamthath continues quest to become world champion
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 11th, 2012) – He and his fiancé have a baby on the way, his mixed martial arts career is beginning to take off, and he has a new team behind him pushing to make him a star on Rhode Island’s competitive fight scene.
“I feel confident,” said Woonsocket, R.I., bantamweight Andre Soukhamthath. “I’m truly blessed right now. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before.”
This sudden euphoria is well-deserved for Soukhamthath, 24, and his fiancé, Jamie Thompson. The two have made this remarkable journey together, beginning nearly six years ago when Soukhamthath was still a senior in high school dreaming of one day playing collegiate soccer. As they prepare for the birth of their second child, they continue to celebrate the life of their first son, LeAndre, who passed away after only nine months due to a genetic skin disorder.
On Friday, June 15th, 2012, Soukhamthath (1-1) will return to the cage against Vinny Tisconie of Shrewsbury, Mass., on the undercard of “Proving Grounds,” presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, R.I. Thompson will be selling commemorative bracelets throughout the night to help raise awareness for Epidermolysis Bullosa, the rare disease that claimed LeAndre’s life in August of 2008, and the two will also donate a portion of their proceeds to Befriend EB, a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to families and victims affected by the disease.
“This is our way or giving back,” Thompson said, “even if it’s only a couple hundred dollars.”
“Not a lot of people know about this disease,” added Soukhamthath, “but we do.”
Five years ago, Soukhamthath and Thompson were just like everyone else who had no idea what Epidermolysis Bullosa was or just how serious the effects were until Thompson one day discovered a mild discoloration on LeAndre’s skin.
“We just thought it was a rash or staph infection,” she said.
The conditioned worsened, but none of the doctors they visited could come up with a diagnosis.
“Our own doctor didn’t even know what it was,” Thompson said. “We had to go from to Boston to Worcester so many times. We traveled out of our network.”
Soukhamthath and Thompson soon learned their son had Epidermolysis Bullosa, which causes blisters on the skin and internal organs, though doctors initially thought it was the least severe strain – known commonly as Epidermolysis Bullosa simplex – and that LeAndre would live well into his 30s.
“I really thought he’d be okay and that he’d be around when I was older,” Soukhamthath said, “but once he reached five months, he was starting to get worse.”
By then, Soukhamthath had already given up on soccer and begun working a full-time job to support his family. Though his father, William Soukhamthath, was a renowned Muay Loa coach, Soukhamthath took an initial liking to boxing and began fighting as an amateur around the time his son was born.
“I was just living day by day, going to work and training,” he said. “I remember one day at work I began researching the disease because my son was getting worse and it was weighing heavily on my mind. That’s when I realized how bad it was.”
“In a span of nine months, he went from having one percent of his body covered in wounds to 80 percent,” Thompson added. “He just wasn’t progressing. His breathing got heavier and heavier. He was never able to cry. He just had a whistle in his voice.”
LeAndre passed away on Aug. 30, 2008. Two months later, Soukhamthath made his amateur debut at the Southern New England Golden Gloves, losing his first bout by one point. He eventually went on to win the 2010 Rocky Marciano Tournament championship in the 152-pound division before making the transition to mixed martial arts, where he rose to the top of the 145-pound rankings and fought three times as an amateur before making his professional debut in September.
Training and fighting was therapeutic for Soukhamthath in the aftermath of his son’s passing, and Thompson fully supported his decision while finding her own ways to cope.
“At first, we kind of just went through the motions. We were in a state of shock,” Thompson said. “Six months later, the whole family flew to Michigan for a benefit by Befriend EB in LeAndre’s memory. It was the first time we both spoke out loud about the experience. It helped provide closure, and it was good to be around people who knew what we were talking about, yet it was hard to open an old wound.”
As Soukhamthath’s career has progressed, Thompson has become more involved, eventually assuming the role of manager, which includes handling Soukhamthath’s ticket sales and medical appointments and cooking all his meals while he’s cutting weight during the weeks leading up to a fight.
“Secretly, I have a huge migraine behind it all,” she said, “but I cover it up for his sake.”
“I give her all the credit,” Soukhamthath added. “She’s been there for me from the start. When I started doing this, I was working full-time and training. I was a nobody, but she told me, ‘Go ahead and train,’ because she knew I was passionate about it. Sometimes when I’d get tired, I’d think about my son. When it’d be hard for me to breathe, I’d imagine what it was like for him.
“I couldn’t even afford my gym membership at first,” he continued. “I had to stay late after hours to help clean up mats to pay it off. I did this five days a week for two to three years, and it kept me away from home a lot. That’s one of my biggest regrets, that I couldn’t spend more time with my son, but I really believe I did the best I could. I just wish I could have done a little better.”
After so many hardships and sacrifices, both in and outside of the cage, it appears Soukhamthath has finally turned the corner. Shortly after winning his first professional bout on the undercard of “Extreme Measures” in February at Twin River, Soukhamthath signed a promotional contract with CES and tomorrow will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket when the Pawtucket Red Sox host the Gwinnett Braves.
The best news of all is that he and Thompson’s next child, which is due in September, has no strains of Epidermolysis Bullosa despite doctors telling them there was a 25 percent chance any future children would be born with the same disease.
Now that the worst is behind him, Soukhamthath can fully focus on his professional career. He’s got a full team behind him, which includes his father as his Muay Lao coach, and boxing trainer David Keefe helping him work on his hands. Perseverance, both personally and professionally, has paid off for Soukhamthath, and he’s on the verge of a breakthrough year in 2012.
“Right now, I’m ready for anyone and everything that comes my way,” he said. “I see it. I believe it. I’m ready for this opportunity. I want to be a world champion.”
As they continue this journey together, Soukhamthath and Thompson will continue supporting charities dedicated to promoting awareness for Epidermolysis Bullosa and providing assistance for families affected by the disease. In some small way, it helps them move forward without ever truly forgetting their past.
“We’ve come a long way,” Thompson said. “All the experiences, we’ve both seen wins and losses, and we’ve seen the down of all downs. There’s always a peak … always an end.”
“Proving Grounds” features the highly-anticipated lightweight showdown between Abner Lloveras (14-6, 5 KOs) of Ludlow, Mass., and Ryan Quinn (8-3-1, 2 KOs) of New Fairfield, Conn., in the main event, in addition to a dynamic featherweight battle between Wai Kru veteran Calvin Kattar (12-2, 7 KOs) of Methuen, Mass., and Chris Foster(4-2, 2 KOs) of the Lion’s Den in Middletown, Conn.
Featherweight Nate Andrews of Providence, R.I., will make his professional debut against Pedro da Silva (1-3, 1 KO) of Boston; newcomer Jay Bakanowski of Boston, Mass., will battle unbeaten welterweight Leon Davis (2-0) of Springfield, Mass., in his debut; and newcomer Billy Giovanella of Bellingham, Mass., will debut againstGilvan Santos (1-2) of Framingham, Mass., in a three-round bantamweight bout.
“Proving Grounds” also features a three-round welterweight battle between undefeated Nick Drummond (3-0, 1 KO) of Boston and newcomer Sergii Musiienko of Framingham; a middleweight showdown between Bob Burton (2-1) of Brockton, Mass., and Boulder, Colo., native Chandler Holderness (8-3, 3 KOs); and a welterweight matchup between Pawtucket’s Keith Jeffrey (7-2-1) and Harley Beekman (4-1, 2 KOs) of Amsterdam, N.Y. Lightweight Joe Pingitore (1-0, 1 KO) of Johnston, R.I., will face newcomer Alan Beeman of Newport, R.I.
Tickets for “Proving Grounds” are $35.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254, online at www.cesmma.com orwww.twinriver.com, at the Players Club booth at Twin River, or through any TicketMaster location. Doors open 6 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 7.
(Twin River has waived its 18+ rule for “Proving Grounds.” Anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and must enter through the West entrance).
– CES –
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