FOUR-TIME Thai boxing world champion Serin Murray is Newcastle’s best-kept sporting secret.
Murray, who hails from Redhead but now lives and trains at Warners Bay, has won two International Sport Kickboxing Association world titles in separate divisions – flyweight (51.8kg) and bantamweight (54.5kg) – since 2009 and defended them both.
The 30-year-old former soccer player and surfer discovered a passion for Thai boxing (Muay Thai) to help deal with the death of her brother in the Gretley mining disaster when she was a teenager.
Murray will fight World Muaythai Council European champion Ruth Ashdown for the ISKA super-flyweight (53.2kg) title at Newcastle Panthers on October 29.
‘‘When they win a title and step in to defend it, they have to vacate it, so that makes her a four-time world champion. Her next fight will be for the super-flyweight world title, and if she wins that, that’s never been done before in this sport – male or female,’’ her trainer, Rob Murdoch, said.
Murray has fought and trained in Thailand, Japan and throughout Australia. Apart from her world titles, she has collected four South Pacific belts and three Australian titles in either modified-Thai (no elbows allowed) or full-Thai (elbows allowed).
After participating in kick-boxing classes ‘‘for a bit of fun and a bit of fitness’’ nine years ago, Murray met Murdoch through a mutual friend and said he helped her realise her potential.
‘‘The main thing that drew me towards it, everything else I’d done was a team sport, but this is more of a self-satisfying thing and a little bit more challenging in the fact that you’re out there with someone else who has trained to do the exact same thing as you,’’ Murray said. ‘‘You really find a bit more out about yourself and you have to draw from whatever strengths you’ve got inside ... There’s noone out there to save you until you get back to your corner.’’
She prefers not to discuss the death of her brother, Damon, one of four mineworkers killed at Gretley in 1996, but his name is tattooed across her back as a tribute and source of inspiration.
‘‘I’d always been a fairly confident person being involved in sport ... but I went through a bit when I was a bit younger and sort of went off the rails a little bit for a while,’’ she said.
‘‘I had to find myself and come back and try to focus on something, but once I stepped into the gym I was pretty much hooked.’’
Murray worked for seven years as an office manager for a real estate company but the nine-to-five grind made her ‘‘stir crazy’’, and she yearned for the freedom to chase her dreams.
She now works part-time providing respite care for a young girl with cerebral palsy and has another office job with a trucking company, juggling casual shifts around her training schedule.
‘‘She’s a very special human being,’’ Murdoch said. ‘‘It took her a long time to get over her brother. She’d lost all her inspiration for everything.
‘‘That affected her really badly. She was a really good soccer player and she was in line to do well but she just gave it up, because it happened really close to when she was supposed to be representing at state, so she just dropped out of everything.
‘‘She took to surfing, because she’s from Redhead and was always a surfer, and she was good enough to be a pro surfer but couldn’t get the inspiration to follow through there either ....
‘‘But as soon as she started training, I could see the potential there of someone who really had talent but she knew nothing, so I tutored her from then and she’s won four world titles.’’
Murray says she didn’t have any great aspirations.
‘‘I just wanted to challenge myself,’’ she said. ‘‘Rob obviously saw something in me to push me along and encourage me to keep going, and he taught me how to believe in myself.’’