Billy Murray's ProKick Past Present and Future
September 13, 2019
This month on 12th September 2019 marked a special anniversary for ProKick’s head coach, Billy Murray. 30 years ago, he won his first World kickboxing title, taking the welterweight crown from the “unbeatable” American, Richard Hill. 30 years on, he is fighting and winning a different fight; this time it’s to build a new state of the art facility that will continue and increase the world renowned work that ProKick does.
His story from he first amateur Ulster title in 1982 to his first professional world title win in 1989 is similar to the journey he has been on recently to secure the future of ProKick is brighter than ever. Having been beaten by Richard Hill previously, Murray wasn’t defeated. If you know anything about this man, you will know that he is not easily deterred. Becoming a world champion was his goal, and he wouldn’t let it go. When the opportunity to face Hill at a packed out Ulster Hall arose, Murray grabbed it with both hands. With his dogged determination and tremendous talent, Murray’s win propelled him to a glittering kickboxing career, picking up world titles at four different weights.
Now in 2019, he has used that same dogged determination to obtain another of his life goals - a new ProKick gym. The infamous “tin hut” of Wilgar Street has produced a plethora of World, European, intercontinental and national kickboxing champions for over 25 years, yet the facilities have certainly been far from world class. Murray has tried for years to secure funding for new facilities, he has had detailed plans drawn for a new build at the current Wilgar Street site before that all fell through at the eleventh hour. But remember, this is a man who no matter what, doesn’t let go of a goal. 30 years on, Murray is about to achieve that dream with the help of Urban Villages. A new state of the art ProKick gym will relocate to Labernum Street, less than a mile away from the current premises.
What Billy Murray and ProKick has achieved over the past 30 years is quite remarkable. He has combined winning world titles with promoting events, training thousands in the sport of kickboxing and guiding countless people to a healthy lifestyle; mind and body. He has accomplished all of this without any official funding. Throughout the early 80’s & 90s, Northern Ireland was making the news across the world for all the wrong reasons, however Murray’s name became synonymous with hope for this island. His kickboxing events encouraged fight fans to visit even in the midst of the Troubles, reminding the world that there was still a good news story to be written, while the ProKick gym provided a welcome refuge from the ongoing atrocities. Politics and religion were forgotten upon entering the ‘spit and sawdust’ gym, the sport of kickboxing ‘the ProKick way’ became the uniting force.
That still remains true today. ProKick’s motto of ‘Truth, discipline and respect’ stem from Murray’s own lifestyle. At 61 years ‘young’, he is still the same weight as he was when he stepped into the ring against Richard Hill 30 years ago, runs 30 plus miles per week, takes up to 15 classes a week and puts ProKick’s current crop of champions through gruelling training sessions on a daily basis. Year after year, ProKick continues to provide hope and inspiration for the community. Murray remains confident that kickboxing continues to provide something which everyone needs in 2019, “there’s so much stress associated with life today, when people come through the doors of the gym, they can drop all of their stresses and baggage and put their energy into training. There’s also so much concern around young people and too much screen time, yet we have teenagers who spend hours each day training and integrating themselves into a team and community here at ProKick.” 30 years on,
Murray is still intent on producing good news stories from Belfast. Sit down with him for a cup of tea or more likely, his favourite bowl of porridge and he will recount copious stories of lives positively impacted through kickboxing.
Over the last 30 years, the achievements and accomplishments of ProKick and Billy Murray have been vast, with facilities that haven’t always been fit for purpose. This has never hindered progress. Just think about what will be accomplished over the next 30 years with functional facilities. No matter what, the ProKick spirit remains “Truth, discipline, respect.”
By Kathryn Warren