Dave Leduc was born in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, before his aspirations in martial arts had begun, Leduc was playing baseball at a young age as a pitcher.
After a disagreement with his father, which has since been resolved, had caused Leduc to leave home, at the age of seventeen, Leduc began practicing martial arts at Kung Fu Patenaude.
He began learning Sanshou and competed in amateur fight nights. Early on, Leduc started training headbutts combinations and adding bare-knuckle bag sessions into his training regimen, an early sign for the career he’s established in Lethwei.
The application of Jeet Kune Do principles into Leduc’s striking style has created a very unpredictable and unorthodox style.
MUAY THAI YEARS
In 2013, due to Lethwei being illegal in his home country, and having difficulty getting a fight in Myanmar, Leduc went on his first trip to Thailand, where he began his professional career. It was at the age of 21 that Leduc won his first Muay Thai fight, defeating a South Korean opponent by TKO.
Leduc was invited to the 2016 Tiger Muaythai Tryouts and went on to win a spot on the professional fight team, along with teammate Dan Hooker.
THE PRISON FIGHT
In July 2014, Leduc took part and won a fight in the infamous Prison Fight Thailand, this is where inmates can reduce their sentences, and even earn their freedom by winning a series of Muay Thai fights against foreign fighters. The event took place in the maximum-security Klong Pai Central Prison, which is two hours north of Bangkok. The event is Sanctioned by the Thai Department of corrections, the prison fight is portrayed as a way for inmates to battle their way to an early release.
Leduc completely dominated the fight, winning the hearts of the country. Although the fight ended in a draw due to traditional Lethwei rules, it was his performance that won the heart of the Myanmar people.
After his dominant performance over TooToo, Leduc challenged Myanmar star Tun Tun Min, who, at the time, was the openweight Lethwei world champion. Their first fight was an explosive draw.
A KING WAS BORN
On December 11, 2016, the very anticipated rematch took place at the Aung Lan Golden Belt Championship in Yangon, Myanmar. The rematch was sweetened by an added bonus, the winner won the ownership of the prestigious Lethwei Golden Belt. Leduc opened the fight offensively, landing his signature fake roundhouse kick to sidekick and a counter elbow on Tun Tun Min’s face soon after the opening bell.
Following these attacks, the tide changed. What the spectators witnessed was an exceptional show of respect by Tun Tun Min, his usual high-paced rushing style was replaced by a noticeable slower pace. The round continued with aggressive attacks from both sides. Leduc managed to execute multiple takedowns, injuring Tun Tun Min’s right leg, which forced his team to call his timeout. The third round opened with Tun Tun Min looking visibly shaken. After a short exchange in the clinch followed by a final takedown, Tun Tun Min was not able to continue and forfeited the fight. Leduc received the Golden Belt, and in doing so became the first non-Burmese fighter to hold the Lethwei openweight world title.
I recently had the honor to interview the man known by the Myanmar people as the King of Lethwei, Dave Leduc of the World Lethwei Championship (WLC).
I got to ask some questions about his life which he graciously answered, I’d like to thank Leduc for sharing his time, take a look into the life of the King Dave Leduc.
You are the first Canadian to win the famous Prison Fight in Thailand, tell us about that experience?
Leduc – “It was a crazy experience. They have not done a Prison fight event since I competed in 2014. What’s special about this program is that it is sponsored by the Thai Department of Correction and if the inmates win their fights, they are eligible to get their sentences reduced! Insane concept. While I was on a winning streak, I was invited to Prison Fight against an experienced Muay Thai fighter that was being incarcerated for drug trafficking. I fought inside the Klong Pai maximum-security prison near Bangkok. Out of ten foreign fighters, only myself and another fighter won our fights. It was like a movie.
You were also the first non-Burmese fighter to win the Golden Belt. How does that feel?
Leduc – It was a dream come true. I still have goosebumps thinking about it. It was one of the best feelings of my life, the result of many years of hard work, sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears.
You have been a real driving force promoting Lethwei outside of Myanmar. What made you decide to promote it in such a big way? And how important is it to you that it becomes even more renowned worldwide renown?
Leduc – I really fell in love with Myanmar culture and its people. They have accepted me as one of their own, I receive so much love and support for Myanmar that I feel like home. I often say that if I had another life before this one, I feel like I was born there. I relate with the Burmese fighters because of their kindness, politeness and hospitality outside the ring, but when they fight they are aggressive. It’s very special to see the kindness of Myanmar on one side and the other side sees their love of combat in Lethwei.Lethwei changed myself and the life of my family, so I feel like I need to give back to the country that gave me so much. The strategy is simple: the more Lethwei gains in popularity, the more the tourism grows and the more the economy and the people will benefit. It’s my mission.
As we mentioned before, winning the Golden Belt and the Prison Fight, added to that you have already accomplished so much. What do you perceive to be your most important accomplishment in your career to date?
Leduc– I am extremely proud of my personal improvements from my first fight with Tun Tun Min and our 3rd match two years later, where I knocked him out for around one minute. It was important for me to show Myanmar that I deserved the Golden Belt. It was supposed to be his big comeback and the entire stadium was filled with his fans. I had so much pressure, but in the first round, I landed my right elbow at the perfect spot and perfect timing. I will always remember this.
What’s left for you to achieve in your eyes to complete your legacy in martial arts?
Leduc – To be honest my first dream was to fight Lethwei and win the Golden Belt. When I succeeded, I then wanted to unify all the traditional Lethwei belts and win the beautiful WLC belt. I already feel like I could retire and enjoy life, but I am still young and I love to fight, so I have many more years to go. Right now, I am building my Leduc Lethwei brand around the world doing seminars. As a fighter, my focus is to help bring Lethwei to the USA and defend the WLC belt on American soil.
If you could pick one fighter out there to compete against, who would it be and why?
LeDuc – The champ doesn’t challenge anyone, he gets challenged. I will always accept anyone the WLC puts in front of me and the result will be the same whoever it is: total domination. A lot of decorated fighters say they want a shot at the title, but then when it’s time to sign the contract they find an excuse, it takes steel balls to fight Lethwei and I respect anyone who steps in the ring.
And finally, what advice would you get to any young person growing up looking at getting into a career in Lethwei?
Leduc – Work. Save some money. Say bye to your parents. Go live and train Lethwei in Myanmar. If you are good enough, you can change your entire life.