Brooklyn Kid Fulfills Dreams In Manhattan
Will Hamilton didn’t waste any time getting in to the competitive side of Martial Arts. Shortly after joining Tiger Schulmann’s in Rego Park, Will Hamilton’s instructor invited him to enter The Challenge of Champions. The C.O.C. has been a proving ground for all of the members of the Tiger Schulmann’s fight team and Hamilton competed in one only six months after beginning his training.
The Challenge of Champions is a great opportunity for students to get over the stress and anxiety of competing. Brackets are separated by Belt, Weight and age groups, so the competition is extremely fair. For Hamilton it let him get his feet wet.
Will Hamilton was a Black Belt when he got his first taste of victory at The Challenge of Champions.
Ironically many of the elite fighters on team Tiger Schulmann didn’t excel in the lower belt divisions of the Challenge of Champions. It was their perseverance that truly paid dividends as they began to excel at the Black Belt level and into competitions outside of TIger Schulmann’s in house tournament.
Will Hamilton was no different. His first memory of winning at the tournament was not until he was a Black Belt. He earned his First Degree in 1999, passing a test that was the toughest in the country. He was required to demonstrate perfect technique on every aspect of TSMMA’s curriculum before competing in ten consecutive 1 minute battles, each against a fresh new Black Belt.
Hamilton had his hand raised every time he competed in Kickboxing.
To this day Hamilton doesn’t forget the gauntlet he survived and credits that one moment with giving him incredible confidence. He took it with him into the Black Belt Division of the C.O.C. where he took home first place in sparring. The Black Belt division is a proving ground for future fight team members and it would put eyes on Hamilton’s future.
That future would have to wait a bit though as Hamilton joined the NYPD in early 2000. He would spend half the year in the police academy before officially getting his posting in December. Soon after he asked Tiger Schulmann if he could train with the fight team. It was a question that would lead Hamilton to fulfilling a dream.
“Three things stood out to me right from the start,” says Tiger Schulmann. “Will had uncommon desire to learn. He would focus on things to the point of perfection. He just wanted to do everything right. He also wouldn’t let anyone outwork him. His willingness to work hard motivated every other person in class, he had that innate ability to inspire everyone through his own hard work. Finally, he had unusual power. We would train guys hard to get ready for fights. Hamilton’s power was undeniable. Our best guys had to be wary training against him.”
Hamilton won a hard fought battle with Derrick Riddick to earn his shot at the US title.
Hamilton would display that power throughout his career. It started on Long Island where Hamilton first got a chance to Kickbox in Lou Neglia’s early amateur events. Hamilton’s success would grow along with Neglia’s promotion. The fights originally held in a small gym in Minneola moved to Bowery Street in Manhattan a couple years later. In between Hamilton honed his reputation as the most feared power puncher in Kickboxing as he steamrolled opponents.
While he truly shined in Kickboxing, he also pushed his limits, competing in the prestigious New York City Golden Gloves tournament where he reached the semifinals in 2002 and the quarter finals in 2003.
He also took part in the International Police and Firefighter games Boxing tournament, taking home a first place trophy.
Wearing headgear didn’t help Hamilton’s opponents at the Police and Firefighter games.
All this experience led him to June of 2006. It was a Friday night in Manhattan where Hamilton got the chance of a lifetime. His success in Kickboxing earned him a shot at the WKA Super Light Heavyweight Muay Thai Championship. Hamilton had dreamed of putting a belt around his waist since he was a kid. Finally he had the chance to earn that right.
Steven Richards would put Hamilton to the test. His opponent was trained by Extreme Lacosta. There was plenty of history between the two camps from many previous fights on the local Kickboxing circuit. Hamilton only heard about this the night of the fight, but didn’t let it distract him from his goal.
Richards proved enough of a test without adding extra pressure. Hamilton had spent countless hours preparing for the fight in training, but also prepared mentally. He took the time to write down a plan for himself, visualizing and then spelling out exactly how the fight would go down. The mental preparation came in handy because what he got from his opponent was not what film study had showed him.
“He was a lot better in the ring than I expected. I had seen some tape and I didn’t take him lightly, but he was definitely far better in person.”
The turning point would come late in the second round. Hamilton had been setting it up all night and finally he caught Stevens with a straight right to the jaw. Stevens hit the ropes before collapsing to the canvas. Richards somehow managed to stagger to his feet before the bell rang and the referee may have given him a little more leeway to continue because of the title on the line. Hamilton did what he was trained to do, maneuvering Richards into a corner and unloading until the bell ended the round. Richards hadn’t really recovered from the knockdown and after the further punishment his cornerman was forced to carry him back to his own corner.
Hamilton’s fighting career all came together with one punch.
The Doctor stepped in to the ring to check on Stevens, effectively ending the fight and saving Stevens from further punishment. It was clear from the way he stumbled before his cornerman grabbed him that he wasn’t going to recover any time soon, let alone in the one minute break between rounds.
The smile never left Hamilton’s face as he stood with Tiger Schulmann putting the belt around his waist, nor later as he took pictures with the hundreds of TSMMA fans who stuffed The Capitale ballroom to cheer him on.
Hamilton fulfilled a life long dream with his championship victory.
That’s not really a surprise though as the smile never leaves Hamilton’s face. He took it with him into a new arena as he wasn’t content to be a champion in Kickboxing. He stepped in to the MMA cage in 2007, matched up with a former Division 1 All-American wrestler.
Geurin talked about the fight four years later when he gave an interview saying how tough it was to take the first three punches from Hamilton. He was thankful his wrestling kicked in and he was able to avoid the same fate in the second and third round. Hamilton couldn’t get back to his feet once Geurin got him down and lost the fight in a decision.
Undaunted, he turned that into further motivation. For the last five years he’s competed in countless grappling tournaments, perfecting his ground game. He’s brought home first place in the advanced division of NAGA three separate times.
Hamilton has taken home multiple titles in grappling, taking what was once a weakness and turning it into a strength.
Hamilton now approaches his 40th birthday with the same relentless approach he took in his fighting career, only now his competitions take place in different arenas. It is as the father of three kids, one with autism, executive director of physical training and tactics at the New York City Police Academy and finally as coach for Team Tiger Schulmann where Hamilton fights his battles.
There is no more belt on the line for him. Only the lives of his family members, fellow police officers and young students. In many ways that fight is even more important to Hamilton as he brings the same focus and determination to each area of his life he brought to The Capitale on his championship night, June 23rd, 2006.
Stay tuned for Part 4 next week.
By: Sensei Thad Campbell