Shalom Life | August 30, 2014

Israeli Muay Thai Champion a Star in Malaysia

Ilya Grad becomes only Israeli to ever enter Southeastern Asian country, wave flag of Israel and leave in one piece

By: Itamar Eichner

Published: October 26th, 2011 in Culture » Society » News

Israeli Muay Thai Champion a Star in Malaysia

Ilya Grad, 24, made history when he became the first Israeli to enter Malaysia, after receiving special permission from the country's Muslim authorities, in order to participate in a national TV reality show on boxing.

Grad, a former Israeli Muay Thai champion, the 2010 Asia champion and the second runner-up in the world championship, has been living and training in Thailand for the past four years. He has already won 38 competitions, and lost only nine times.

Malaysian television station AXN recently invited 16 of the world's best boxers to participate in a reality show called "The Challenger Muaythai". They live in the same house, eat and train together, and in the evenings they fight in a ring in front of the cameras.

Grad was nicknamed "Achilles" and had the honor of representing Israel in a country which legally bans the entry of Israelis.

"My friends and family asked if I was crazy when I just received the invitation," he recalls. "They asked why would I want to do it, told me not to go and warned that I could get in trouble. But I decided that I wanted to do it because of the sportive challenge and in order to be the first person to wave the flag of Israel there."

Despite the producers' promise to guarantee his safety, when Grad landed in the Kuala Lumpur airport he was detained for 25 hours and wasn't allowed to enter the country until the Malaysian sports minister personally intervened.

The Israeli boxer was eventually allowed to enter the country and received a special visa, but his passport was not stamped.

"When I wanted to start the first fight, the producers demanded that I carry a flag of Russia, the country I was born in. It was absurd, and I explained to them that if I was forced to do that I would fly back home immediately," he says. "They eventually gave in and waved our flag on prime time TV."

The local audience was not as enthusiastic, responding with booing and loud roars.

'One step forward toward a life of peace'

At the end of the fight, the two Malaysian judges declared the French boxer the winner. The Thai judge, on the other hand, ruled that the Israeli had won, but after consulting the other judges it was decided that Grad has lost the battle.

"The basically stole the fight, but I was comforted when I left the ring and was approached by many Malaysians who apologized for booing and said that I was the real winner," he says.

Despite his loss, the production asked Grad to stay on till the end of the competition, likely due to the great amount of interest he raised.

"I left Malaysia with mixed feelings," Grad says. "The fact that I was allowed to enter Malaysia took us one step forward toward a life of peace, and yet I felt like I was behind enemy lines. But I can say for sure that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me."

This article is reprinted from Ynet with permission.

Watch the Trailer for Jon Stewart's Directorial Debut [VIDEO] Watch the Trailer for Jon Stewart's Directorial Debut [VIDEO] TrendingArsenio Hall Compares Mac Miller to Maya Angelou [VIDEO] Arsenio Hall Compares Mac Miller to Maya Angelou [VIDEO] TrendingJoan Rivers Stopped Breathing, Rushed to Hospital During Surgery Joan Rivers Stopped Breathing, Rushed to Hospital During Surgery Trending
 

The Ten Best Curb Your Enthusiasm Episodes

August 29, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau & Daniel Koren
The Ten Best Curb Your Enthusiasm Episodes

While Season 9 may be a mere fallacy, we do have 8 seasons of Larry David's hilariously awkward comedy to keep us company

Read More

'Ray Donovan' Creator Ann Biderman Leaves Show

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
'Ray Donovan' Creator Ann Biderman Leaves Show

Writer David Hollander will take the helm of the Showtime series starring Liev Schreiber

Read More

Watch the Trailer for Jon Stewart's Directorial Debut [VIDEO]

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Watch the Trailer for Jon Stewart's Directorial Debut [VIDEO]

'Rosewater' will hit a theater near you in November

Read More

Joaquin Phoenix to Play Marvel's Dr. Strange?

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Joaquin Phoenix to Play Marvel's Dr. Strange?

Reports indicate that Phoenix is in final talks to play the wizard warrior in a new Marvel franchise

Read More

Bryan Singer Investigated for Alleged Sex Crime

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Bryan Singer Investigated for Alleged Sex Crime

According to sources, the NYPD is looking into a claim that Singer sexually assaulted a man in his twenties

Read More

Spanish Imam Asks Allah to Destroy All the Jews [VIDEO]

August 29, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Spanish Imam Asks Allah to Destroy All the Jews [VIDEO]

In a Friday sermon, Sheik Saleheoldine al-Moussaoui says the Jews are "by nature treacherous and war-mongering"

Read More

Al-Qaeda Presents: Terrorism 101, A Guide on Making Bombs and Choosing Targets

August 29, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Al-Qaeda Presents: Terrorism 101, A Guide on Making Bombs and Choosing Targets

The terrorist organization has released a detailed booklet on how to make pressure cooker bombs, and which U.S., U.K., and Israeli targets should be attacked

Read More

Putin Compares Ukrainian Army to the Nazis

August 29, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Putin Compares Ukrainian Army to the Nazis

The Russian President condemned Ukrainian troops firing at civilians in eastern Ukraine who he said are "suppressed with force"

Read More

More Headlines