Sun | Jun 4, 2023

Lawrence grabs Night of Champions revenge

Published:Monday | July 8, 2019 | 12:22 AMAinsley Walters/Gleaner Writer

JAMAICA combined martial arts team captain Ackeem Lawrence added icing to Jamaica’s cake, which already had 53 medals, at the International Sports Karate Association United States Open on Saturday, landing his second Night of Champions victory with a 2-1 win against Argentina’s Axel Vargas in the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) World Championship bout.

The Night of Champions victory pushed Jamaica’s overall tally at the US Open, held at the Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Florida, to 54 medals – 19 gold, 15 silver and 20 bronze.

Lawrence, who won his first Night of Champions title in 2016, defeating Canada’s Maxime Bujold, got sweet revenge against Vargas, who had beaten him twice on the trot – at World Cups in Australia and Hungary – his sole win over the Argentine being their first meeting, a gold-medal clash at the 2014 ITF Pan-Am Champs.

“The difference this time was preparation,” said Lawrence, who was saved for the main bout on Saturday’s ESPN-televised Night of Champions. “I must say thanks for the coaching staff of Claude Chin, Jason McKay and Nicholas Dusard for their overall support.”

Lawrence said the strategy against Vargas was to not sit back and allow the Argentine to get into his fight plan during the two-round bout of a minute and a half each.


“I stuck to a plan coach McKay had outlined, which was to overwhelm him, make it hard for him to do his flashy stuff,” Lawrence explained. “As a result, his fight didn’t have the same pizzazz and fanfare as it usually does,” he added.

Lawrence, 26, also had the responsibility of leading Jamaica’s combined martial arts team for a second tour, his first being at April’s Ultimate Taekwon Do Open in New Jersey, where the squad won 10 medals, including four gold in sparring.

Saturday’s victory was also a proud moment for Lawrence’s mother, Annette McKenzie, who was seeing her son perform overseas for the first time despite his many travels on all continents with the combined team.