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Fighting for their sport

World Muay Thai group is close-knit and committed

Posted: July 15, 2009 10:31 p.m.
Updated: July 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Saugus resident Francisco Funicello, 21, throws an elbow into the pad as he spars at World Muay Thai Tuesday in Canyon Country. Funicello has a 1-1 record in amateur fights, and he will return to action in the ring this August at Hollywood Park Casino.

 
The crack of Ruben Lahn’s kick contacting with his instructor’s arm pads reverberates throughout the gym.

Sweat rolls off his face, but he doesn’t slow down.

He can’t, because his fourth amateur bout is on the horizon.

“If you’re not sweating, you’re cheating,” Lahn said.

On Saturday, the 18-year-old Lahn, of Canyon Country, along with 28-year-old Hector Godoy, of Saugus, will represent Canyon Country’s World Muay Thai in the 2009 Ultimate Warriors Muay Thai Kickboxing World Championship beginning at 4 p.m. at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The event is sponsored by the World Muay Thai Council, the official world governing body of the sport.

“They want to see Muay Thai at its best,” said World Muay Thai teammate Francisco Funicello, 21, of Saugus. “They called around all these gyms and these are pretty much the best 18 fighters that can fight right now.”

Currently undefeated with a 3-0 record, Lahn’s technical style has earned him the praise of his teacher after only one year at the gym.

“He does everything — punch and kick and knee,” said World Muay Thai chief instructor Kru Pongsan Ekyotin. “He is a smart fighter, very smart. Strong heart and strong mind.”

Lahn is a testament to the growing popularity of the sport, saying he initially found his way to World Muay Thai after watching it on television.

The sport caught hold of him.

“That kid is all heart, man,” said Funicello, who also spends time instructing. “He’s got bricks in his hands. He’s amazing. He goes out there with no fear and doesn’t hold back at all. He goes in and he bangs. For a kid his age to get disciplined the way he does, it takes heart and it takes something pushing him inside.”

Funicello, who is 1-1 in amateur fights, will see action in August when he returns to the ring at Hollywood Park Casino, where Lahn and Godoy will attempt to participate as well.

But first, Godoy must get through Saturday and hopefully improve his 5-1 record.

“(He’s) very strong,” Ekyotin said. “He has a natural power. Four fights in a row he knocked people out with his hands.”

Nicknamed “Hammer” by his compatriots, Godoy is looking to rebound from the first loss of his amateur career.

With 21 years of training, he has studied Muay Thai for the last two years.

Part of the appeal has been the family oriented nature of World Muay Thai.

“The group of guys that we have are very modest,” Godoy said. “They train hard. Some fighters, their heads get very swollen, and they think no one can beat them. It is great training with them. They push you. They see that you are dropping your hands and tell you, ‘keep you hands up.’”

Aside from his power, Godoy has distinguished himself in another way.

“He comes in here and he works harder than anyone in the gym,” Funicello said.

Lahn, Godoy and Funicello make up World Muay Thai’s sanctioned competitive team.

More than that, they form a core at the gym built on family, one in which 22-year-old fighter Jerod Zavistoski, of Canyon Country, says he keeps coming back to despite trying out other gyms in the Santa Clarita Valley.

It stems from Ekyotin, whom Zavistoski even referred to as “a father figure.”

“We’re a family in here, man,” Funicello said. “I’ve been here two and a half years. You develop a bond with the consistency in here. The guys that are out here pour their sweat and tears. That is one thing this whole fight team consists of — heart.”

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