The raindrops were large and heavy as the 27-year-old Arizona native came back from his afternoon run. The clouds made the afternoon into night casting a heavy stillness on rural Thamaka. The gym, Sitmonchai, however, began to emit it’s regular sound. A twice-daily chorus of noise as habitual as the cocking of roosters, bellowing of cows, and barking of dogs. The clamor from the famous Kanchanburi province gym was what drew Nick Chasteen. Known for it’s aggressive, fan friendly style, heralded by Pornsanae Sitmonchai, and now Yodkhunpon Sitmonchai, Chasteen had come out to Sitmonchai for 5 weeks in order to hone his skill set for his upcoming bout against Turan Hasanov on Lion Fight 26 in Connecticut at the Foxwoods Casino.
John Earley, Chasteen’s father, had been an amateur kick boxer participating in PKA matches with long satin pants, foot booties and axe kicks. Following in his father’s footsteps, Chasteen grew up doing Kenpo Karate with his family. Chasteen graduated to above the waist kickboxing along with his younger brother Damien Early, and his two older sisters. After taking a break from 12 to 19, Chasteen reunited with the sport through Rick Roufus in Scotsdale Arizona at the Lion’s Den. It was there that Chasteen met Bob Karmel, who’d opened the first Fairtex in 1992. “If you stick with me,” Karmel told the young Chasteen, “I’ll make you a champion.” Karmel was true to his word as 8 years later and 9 titles later Karmel had kept his promise.
Chasteen began to shadow box as the other foreigners and Thais stretched and jumped rope. The tin roof of the gym pinged with the sound of rain as the heavy cords of the jump ropes made wet smacks against the concrete floor. Chasteen was beckoned into the ring and began to smash the pads, walking forward with heavy-handed crosses, walking knees, and long body kicks.
The Golden Boy, as Chasteen is nicknamed, had a long amateur career with 25 fights, 21 coming by way of victory. He gained his first title in Iowa at the Thai Boxing Association bouts, and spent most of his amateur career in Vegas, Oklahoma, and California traveling from his hometown to get experience. Fighting between 140 and 147 lbs, Chasteen bounced around in weight classes, taking what he could get. Staying in shape constantly allowed him to take fights short notice, getting wins and belts. The first amateur signed for a pro contract with Lion Fight.
After 5 long rounds on the pads. Chasteen began to spar with Yodkhunpon. While Chasteen is taller, and larger the Thai fighter was able to keep him at bay and the two engaged in technical sparring going back and forth with body kicks, heavy punches, and quick leg kicks.
For Chasteen, “if you’re gonna do Muay Thai you have to go to the homeland… at the end of the day you train with harder, stronger, tougher guys.” This was clear as he continued to spar with Yodkhunpon who has a much more direct style than Chasteen. “My style is not their style. It’s good to get a grasp on different styles. I’ve been more of a counter fighter. These guys at Sitmonchai take it to you more.”
When asked what the big take away is Chasteen thought for a moment then replied, “Realizing how stiff I am. Coming out has helped with my timing as I’ve been sparring mainly with the Thais. It’s trickier. You step in and they footjab you in the thigh. It’s little things that throw off your timing and footwork. It’s the experience with the other fighters and all the time in the clinch.”
The two fighters end their sparring session. They cool down with hundreds of sit-ups, countless push ups. It is another day done and as always one day closer to their respective fights.
Chasteen showers, and comes out to the common area. Sitting down at a table. Food is made and eaten.
“Back home you have to work two jobs and train Muay Thai. Out here you train, eat, sleep, that’s it.”