BAM! Each blow connects. As a bystander it’s scary, but for Luis Tavares it’s a Thursday morning. Left, right, left, kick. The sweat pours down his face in the ring. “And this is a pretty relaxed session”, he says with a smile. 

It’s sort of a luxury garage, the location in Rotterdam-Noord that hosts the kickboxer. A big room full of paintings, a sitting corner (two of those big ol’ brown recliner chairs with a blanket and a lamp), a treadmill, a separate toilet and shower around the corner and in the back the thing that makes everything else disappear: the ring, surrounded by pictures of boxers. Boxers that have fallen to the ground, or are boasting on a poster. “Iron” Mike Tyson is an eternal onlooker here.

27-year-old Luis is a calm incarnate before and after the training. But the square ring is where he unleashes. And how. This born and bred Rotterdammer – clad in a shirt that says “Greetings from Rotterdam” – is starting to become a big name in the kickboxing world. He became light heavyweight champion at Enfusion, and now he wants to repeat this result at the biggest organization there is: GLORY. After that? He wants Rico Verhoeven’s title in the heavyweight division. “I’ll definitely be a world champion there”, Luis says full of confidence.

The sport is made of huge, tough people. At the same time it’s made of uncertainty.

Luis only makes money with competitions. “I have a contract for three to four fights a year. If I fight, I have an income. Otherwise I don’t. I have to find different ways of funding myself around those fights. It’s as simple as that” he says.

It’s called “top” dollar for a reason

“Funding is a massive problem in this sport” adds Luc Smits, his trainer/manager and owner of the inspiring training location.”Most kickboxers come from blue-collar backgrounds and don’t have a lot of money. But look at Floyd Mayweather, world’s best paid boxer. He isn’t exactly from world’s best neighborhood. So the question is: what are you willing to do for it?

“The top earns good money, but that’s a few percent of all boxers. The rest struggles.” Luis knows this all too well, since he’s now part of the top. Like the song goes – started from the bottom, now he’s here. “In the past I’ve had to skip doctor’s appointments even though I was basically crippled. I was tight on money and didn’t know if I would make it through the month if I did go.”

“Why am I doing this again?”

“Us kickboxers put in just as much work as soccer players. We train two, sometimes three times per day. This sport is our life and we do – and sacrifice – everything for it. If you then add a struggle to make it through the month, then there are moments where you think: why am I doing this again?” 

Luis’ worst worries are over thanks to his trainer Luc’s financial support, and main-sponsor Superp. He does emphasize that a big lump of money isn’t what will get you there though. “Money can make things possible that are otherwise difficult, but do you think he’s the first fighter I’ve helped? No, definitely not. But I don’t see them here today. Everyone had something. Luis took initiative and has, day in, day out, improved himself” Luc echoes. 

“The question is: what do you do with the money you get? Say thanks and buy yourself a nice sandwich, or do you invest it in yourself? Luis puts every penny into his sport.”

On to a new world title

In time these investments should lead to a GLORY world title. Funding is an important part of Luis’ success up until now. “On a medical level I can now hit my full potential when it comes to powerlifting and sparring. I can ensure my body is in the best shape possible, so my performance matches that.” The possibilities that Luis has in front of him are borne from his own attitude and the right financial means. Without money, he wouldn’t be able to train on the level he needs to. 

The “Greetings from Rotterdam” shirt is now soaked from an intense session with a trainer from England. There are barely any high-level boxing trainers in the Netherlands, the kind that Luis and Luc need. That’s why they went abroad and fly in experienced trainers and sparring partners from, for example, Liverpool. 

A good example of something that wasn’t possible before. “I recently went to Liverpool myself to train with some high-level boxers. That’s possible now” says Luis as he glees with pride. “Thanks to funding I can make the next step as an athlete – the step towards the top of the world.”

Behind-the-scenes sports content on Peakz

“Fans ask a lot of questions on my social-media channels, but it’s difficult to answer all 100.000 of them”, Luis said when we asked him about his reasons for joining Peakz. He added: “It’s great that now I can filter the truly engaged from the casual fanbase – that gives me focus, and frees up a lot more time to really be in touch with them. The fans on Peakz are truly a part of my athletic journey, and I’m excited to take them there with exclusive, behind-the-scenes content.

Check out Luis’s Peakz channel to watch his sparring sessions, his preparations to his next fights and all other training material.