Despite his diminutive stature, Darius Palmas is perhaps the biggest ball of energy in Tanko’s arsenal.
His calm body language conceals it well, but there’s a restlessness inside this teenager. Nowadays, it comes out from behind the curtain whenever he steps into the ring or starts talking about Muay Thai. Combat sports allows him to channel his vigour perfectly, offering him the ideal outlet for his enthusiasm.
But it wasn’t always this way. At five-years-old, Darius was so full of beans, he ended up causing minor havoc in his household. His parents agreed he needed an appropriate place to let off steam, and they settled on Northern Spirit gym – a fitness centre and fight academy located less than two minutes’ walk away.
“I was too hyper at home as a kid,” Darius laughs.
“My mum and dad wanted me to get a release and decided to look for a local gym. Northern Spirit was right around the corner, so it was the ideal solution”
“I’ve been there on and off for thirteen years now.”
Darius attributes much of his success to his bouncy fight style. He stays on his toes to wear opponents down and strike while the iron is hot, using his energy levels to put rivals under constant pressure.
“I can do that for five rounds,” Darius informs us.
“I’m a naturally bouncy person, and the guys at Northern Spirit have taught me how to focus this energy into fighting.”
It’s clear to see Darius is thankful for everything Lisa Howarth and the NS team have done for him. On more than one occasion during his childhood, his restlessness got the better of him, causing him to briefly abandon Muay Thai, but the Sale workout centre always wanted him to remain part of the family.
“I quit when I was younger out of frustration,” Darius muses.
“But I’m not the same person now as I was back then. I’ve grown up a lot. Northern Spirit saw something in me. If it wasn’t for Lisa’s private lessons and Leroy pushing me to the limit, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“Now, I couldn’t imagine doing anything or being anywhere else.”
The restlessness that took Darius away from Muay Thai is the same magnetic force that pulled him back in. He’s a competitor at heart, and whilst he loves playing football for local side Altrincham FC, he gets his full competitive fix when he enters the fight ring. Still only eighteen years of age, he already has a catalogue of glorious memories to look back upon, including a victory over Dylan Hardy at the inaugural Tanko Muay Thai League.
“That was my proudest moment,” Darius beams.
“I trained like a beast for that fight, and to get a first stoppage against a much more experienced opponent was huge.
“I was the underdog that night and made a big statement to put my name out there.”
TML wasn’t the first time Darius has upset the odds. At Karl Ryan’s 2 Brothers home show, he was rushed on stage to fight Dom Hill as soon as he arrived at the arena. To make matters even more difficult, Darius was left facing one of the toughest opponents he’s ever come across when he actually got into the ring.
“I was out on stage pretty much as soon as I arrived,” Darius explains.
“I hadn’t had time to eat or anything. I was walking to the ring with Jaffa Cakes being shoved into my mouth on the way. When I was fighting him (Hill), he just wouldn’t go down. I was thinking ‘What do I need to do?!’”
“I managed to get the win in the end, but man, it was tough.”
Like any good young fighter, Darius is eager to keep learning and developing his game. He’s tactical now as well as fast and energetic, and he’s got plans to improve his finishing for future fights.
“You can’t show your opponent too much respect – and that’s something I’m working on. I could’ve had a few more stoppages on my record really, but I’ll keep looking forward and keep learning.”
Of course, Darius is in the right place if he wants to turn into a Muay Thai superstar. His training partners include the likes of Dakota Ditcheva, Cody Ditchev, and Harry Burton, and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he’s surrounded by fellow combat sports enthusiasts.
“It’s one big family at Northern Spirit, the atmosphere is amazing,” Darius tells us.
“Lisa won’t throw you in (to fights) with just anyone either. She matches you with people who will test you. It’s the best way to learn.”
“I’d say we’re definitely a point scoring gym. Mind you, we managed three knockouts at TML. Somehow everyone ended up at my house that night for a celebration. I got in through the door and there were about fifty people dancing in my living room!”
This proves how close the Northern Spirit family really are. As long as they’re all together in one spot, wherever it may be – that’s home.
“It’s the best place to be,” Darius smiles.
He says it calmly, but, as always, the energy is there. Bouncing behind his eyes.