Davidlee Winklaar, the kickboxing champion from Bonaire

“If something goes wrong, then it is what it is. I won’t focus too much on it. You don’t know when you die so you have to be cheerful every day and be good to your fellow man. If you do good for someone, it will come back to you anyway.”

Inspiring words from a special guy. Davidlee Winklaar is 25 years old, kick boxer and was the first Bonairean to participate in the WAKO Pan American Championships. Not only did Davidlee participate, he also managed to win the title!

From the moment Davidlee comes in he radiates calm. He is, in contrast to the rough fighter you see in the ring, very gentle and fairly calm. He says he just worked a night shift and I ask him what kind of work he does besides kickboxing. “I am a police officer” says Davidlee laughing. Ironic.

Pan American Championships

We start talking about the Pan American Championships in Mexico.

“There were six people in my class -81 kilos. In the first round I had to fight against Brazil, America against Mexico and Canada also against Mexico. The boy from Brazil had not achieved his weight so I got a free pass to the semifinals. In the semifinals I faced America but that was over quickly. My opponent was knocked out within 10/20 seconds and with that I went through to the final. In the final I was facing Canada. Canada was a warrior. He finished all three rounds but he did have eight counts twice.”


“Many people knew me because I was the only kickboxer on the island. Now that I won the Pan American championships, wow. Sometimes I find it difficult when I am in a hurry and people want speak to me. I want to give people time to ask all the questions they want to ask and to take a picture, but when I’m in a hurry it’s difficult sometimes. I want to stay nice to everyone, humble.”

“My goal is to make the kickboxing world big so that more people know how the sport works. Some people have a very bad perception when it comes to martial arts, for example that we kickboxers are very aggressive people. I behave exactly how I would do if I didn’t have all of this. I think it is important that you are kind and good to your fellow man because if you do that you will get it back.”

The beginning

“My parents sent me to my uncle’s karate school when I was twelve years old. When I was seventeen, I thought it was too boring, I wanted to do kickboxing. A year after I went to the Netherlands to study, I stayed for a year because I was homesick and didn’t like my study. Back on the island I went to apply for a job at the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee where I went to study.”

Davidlee goes silent for a moment and then begins to talk again, and a special story awaits me.

“One day I drove on the Kaya Grandi when I saw someone walking across from Digicel who was searching for something. I stopped and asked him what he was looking for. The man said he was looking for a barber and I said he could get in my car, I would take him there. That was the first meeting with my coach. In the car he asked me if I was doing sports and I told him that I had started kickboxing in the Netherlands. He said he had given kickboxing lessons in the Netherlands and asked if I would like to train together. I told him that would be great fun and since then we are inseparable. I always tell his uncle that he did not come to Bonaire for him, but for me! It had to be that way.”

He laughs and I let the special story sink in on me. Meanwhile, he passionately continues to talk about his great love and how it all started.

“We started to train on the street opposite the customs office. He had a pair of gloves with him that I could borrow and we started with the base of the sport. After a few months I fought my very first game. I lost. I won the match afterwards and I lost the third game again. This has been the last time I’ve lost so far. I’ve had fifteen matches of which I lost two and won thirteen. And now we are here!”


I ask him what his life looks like now. It is clear that this boy is super motivated and has a very tight schedule.

“I train two to three times a day. To reach and stay at this level demands a lot from you. From about the age of nineteen I am only investing in myself. I don’t go on holidays and buying new things I don’t know. I only buy new sports items such as boxing gloves or running shoes. My life is not exactly normal. Kickboxing is my passion and my love.”

I get more and more respect for this boy and realize that in addition to performing his passion, he also just has a job. I ask him how he can combine all that.

“With work it’s very difficult to combine. I have been invited to fight in 2019 all around the world. Countries such as Hungary, Taiwan, Peru and America are on the list. Sometimes I have an evening shift that ends at 00:00 and then I’ll run. At 1:00 am I am still running. I can choose not to go for a run because it is already late, but that means that I did one less training that week. For me it has always been important that I invest in myself, that I train when I can and that I can do my work completely. With this title I realize that I have to make choices between my passion and my work. “


The life of this 25-year-old seems incredibly hectic and busy. I admire him for being able to keep it all up and then wonder how he keeps his life in balance. Rest is also important.

“I don’t really like going out. I don’t like crowds in general. People think that I am only talking about training and fighting, but I am also a human being. I love the sea and in my free time I like to sit alone in my car, with calm music. Sometimes I put my car along the water or somewhere else where it is quiet.”


After the match in Mexico Davidlee placed on his social media: “I stood in the ring, with Bonaire in my heart and God made the movements for me, together we did it.” Based on this I ask him about his religious background.

“God is very important to me. I believe that everything that happens in life, that it happens because it has to be like that. God has a plan for everyone right from the start, and if I die tomorrow or become a millionaire, it is planned that way. If negative things happen you should not get angry or sad but repack and continue. In the end, all things that happen are a lesson you can only learn from. I pray every day and go to church every Sunday. If it’s possible, I try to go more often”


“In 5 years I am experiencing my dream. I am already, but even more. I’m training and fighting a lot. At the age of 30 I quit kickboxing. I want a lot of children and fighting is not very good for your health. I don’t want my children to have a dad that is unable tot talk to them or to walk properly. Whether I’m rich or not, I quit.”

With these words we wrap up the interview with Davidlee. I have a lot of respect for this guy. Both in- and outside the ring it’s a driven person who knows what he wants and goes for it a 100%. There is no doubt that this boy is going to kick far in the kickboxing world and that we’ll hear a lot from him.

By Guusje van der Leer
Guusje works until 1 February 2019 as an intern and has a passion for writing.

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