Longform

Meet the "Golden Boy" of the Growing Asian Combat Sport of Muay Thai

Nick Chasteen's covered with menthol-infused oil. His square-jawed face is slathered with Vaseline. A black silk robe with red and yellow trim is cinched at his waist.

It's a Friday night, and the Muay Thai fighter from Phoenix is about to make his professional debut at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He peers into the lighted mirror, turning his head left, then right, before a fight official appears at his locker-room door and announces that he's up next.

Chasteen and his team walk silently down a hallway of The Joint, the Hard Rock's event center. Guttural screams spill out from fighters as their limbs strike the air and spar pads (whap, whap, whap, whap) during warm-ups in the backstage locker rooms that line the hall.

The fighter steps into the elevator with his corner men -- Chasteen's younger brother, Damien Earley, a professional kickboxer who also trains in Muay Thai, and seasoned trainer Bob Karmel.

(See a slideshow of Nick Chasteen and Muay Thai.)

Nick's barefoot and wearing a mongkon, the sacred headpiece that Muay Thai fighters don like a crown. Despite his garb and gloved hands, he doesn't look as though he's about to enter a ring and endure elbow jabs, shin kicks, and merciless knee blows before a crowd of more than 2,000 bloodthirsty fans.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo