PE teachers don’t come much more inspirational than Dean James. A role model in every sense, he has overcome adversity in all its forms to rise to the top of professional combat sports.
Diagnosed with life-threatening colon cancer at the age of 19, he not only defied doctors’ advice by participating in fight sports, but he even went on to become the best of British in the fighting art of Muay Thai, winning three world championships at three different weight divisions.
James teaches Physical Education and Art to children and teens in central Birmingham at Spring Hill High School – an independent facility for students with Behavioural Emotional Social Difficulties (BESD), autism and underlying issues of mental health.
Headmistress Sheraine Reid-Ferguson says: “Dean possesses a skill-set that underpins a strength of character, which helps him to match the intensity that is required to work with arguably some of the most challenging and vulnerable children in the country.”
Regarded as one of the most technically able fighters in the sport, James secured the UK number one featherweight spot in 2010 and has remained top of his division since.
To date, he has recorded notable wins over highly decorated international fighters including Rungravee Sasiprapa (Thailand), Dimity Varats (Belarus) and French Muay Thai star Amine Kacem and continues to fight the world’s elite in Muay Thai.
“Training Muay Thai is like a physical and emotional release for me,” James explains. “I had spent so much time in the hospital fighting cancer, I felt like I was missing out on everything. I guess that frustration built up inside me. Punching and kicking the bags made me feel so much better.”