A North East schoolboy has become a sporting world champion after doctors told him he would never be able to take part in contact sports.

Theo Spinks, from Darlington, is celebrating winning gold at the 19th Muay Thai Championship, despite being diagnosed at age four with Perthes Disease, a rare hip condition that led doctors to doubt he could lead a full active life.

Now aged 13, Theo has defied those grim predictions to emerge as a junior world champion at the annual competition held in Bangkok, triumphing over a rival fighter from Uzbekistan.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The young fighter, who trains at Hanuman Gym, in Darlington, said: “I was quite excited to get in the ring for the final. My last opponent was quite a bruiser.

"Headshots are illegal in junior matches, but once he realised he was losing he just started going for my head and hoping he could win that way, but I didn’t really feel his punches, apart from one that got me right on the jaw.”

Theo's dad, Paul, is a former Muay Thai boxer himself, and accompanied Theo to Thailand to coach and cheer his son on. He said: “From the moment the first round of that final match ended, I knew Theo was going to win.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Theo triumphant in his semi-final against LebanonTheo triumphant in his semi-final against Lebanon (Image: Paul Spinks)

“The other lad came out and Theo caught his kick and just swept him to the ground. I knew there was just a real difference in skill, and Theo was going to take it.”

Sure enough, Theo took the win, and celebrated becoming a world champion by joining his dad for a giant ice-cream sundae. “Like all fighters, Theo likes to celebrate with food,” laughed Paul.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Theo celebrates the right way - with ice cream!Theo celebrates the right way - with ice cream! (Image: Paul Spinks)

The victory is all the more meaningful given how different the family expected their lives to be when Theo reached this age. Proud mum Emily said: “When Theo was diagnosed, the doctors said when he got to 12 or 13 years old, they’d have to break one of his legs to allow the other one to grow and catch up.

“Instead, here he is with a gold medal! Theo absolutely deserves this. He went out running in all weathers six times a week, he’s put himself on a strict diet, and he’s really taken responsibility for his training.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Theo with his proud mum and dad, Emily and PaulTheo with his proud mum and dad, Emily and Paul (Image: Chris Barron)

“He’s really matured as a fighter and as a person this year, and we’re just so proud of him. He’s amazing.”


Theo added: “My favourite moment of the tournament was the semi-final – I managed to knock my opponent right out of the ring!

“I want to say thank you to my sponsors – MKM Building Supplies, UK Scaffolding, and Think Hire Ltd – to my coaches, Craig and Ashley, and especially to my Mum and Dad.

“They put in loads of effort to get me to Thailand, and they’re always in my corner.”