Camp Verde fighters bring home belts from Muay Thai expo

Jonah Loveall, Lauren Willis, Wesley Loveall and Victor Rivas pose with the belts they won last month at the Thai Boxing Association Classic Muay Thai World Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. VVN/James Kelley

Jonah Loveall, Lauren Willis, Wesley Loveall and Victor Rivas pose with the belts they won last month at the Thai Boxing Association Classic Muay Thai World Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. VVN/James Kelley

Camp Verde’s Larson’s Boxing and Fitness enjoyed a very successful trip to Des Moines, Iowa last month for the Thai Boxing Association Classic Muay Thai World Expo.

Larson’s Boxing and Fitness and fitness brought four fighters to the tournament and won three belts, going 6-1.

Former world champion Clifford Larson and his wife, Pita, coach at the gym.

“All our fighters did really solid and we came out successful, we did lose one fight but we did perform really well,” Larson said. “We had good technique, we just made some errors in the process but we’ve come from a gym where our beginning phase of the tournament obviously we would lose. You never know what kind of group you’re going to get and with those different individuals you’re only as good as the effort each person puts in the gym.”

This season they brought three adults and one junior, while usually they bring more juniors.

Larson has brought fighters to the Iowa tournament every year since 2013 and it has grown form 300 to 800 fighters.

“It’s obviously proof that Muay Thai is growing as a sport, it’s generating more interest among the juniors, the adults, even all the way up to 50 year olds,” Larson said. “So compared to when I used to fight, it wasn’t as popular where you generate maybe three fights a year, where now athletes that we train can get up to almost 20 fights a year. The opportunity is just so grand for these athletes now, we can start them as young as eight years old and keep them involved with the Muay Thai and keep them growing all the way up to teenage. So for us to be apart of that tournament and the growth is something that we enjoy and it’s something that the athletes really love.”

Jonah Loveall, Lauren Willis, Wesley Loveall and Victor Rivas represented the gym and Verde Valley at the tournament, with the Loveall brothers and Willis taking home belts.

“It went the best it could possibly go,” Wesley Loveall said. “I fought three times, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and won all three. It was my first tournament in the gold division I was the youngest at 18 in a division of eight.”

Although Wesley Loveall won a title last year as a junior, it was a big step and an impressive win this year.

“So this was his first year as a adult, big transition from junior competition to now adults,” Larson said. “He’s 18 years old, we’re you’re fighting adults that are 20, 25, 30, I mean it can go all the way up and he did really well.”

Wesley Loveall, who went to Camp Verde High School, where he played soccer and was Homecoming king, is going to college at GCU next month. Right now he’s helping other fighters train at the gym.

Willis also won a title in 2015.

“I think I did well,” Willis said. “It was the first time in a tournament where I actually fought multiple fights to get to the championship, so that was a new challenge I was happy that I came through and made it (laughs).”

Willis is going to continue to train but is stepping away from competing to focus on motherhood and work. She is a baker and has a specialty cakes business, Inspired Designs by Lauren and it is on Facebook.

“I’m going to continue coming here because it’s my fitness and I love it, it’s kinda my me time away from being a single mom of three and working two jobs,” Willis said. “So I’m just going to continue coming three to four times a week for the fitness level, other than that just focusing on building my business and being a parent.”

Larson said it can be tough for fighters to compete on such a bug stage so he tells them they’re already winners going in, it’s just a matter of doing it.

“So most of the time the outcome of their experience is good,” Larson said.

Jonah Loveall said competing at the tournament was fun, that he wasn’t worried about everyone watching him.

“I think I did well, I didn’t keep attitude too amped, I stayed calm and tried to get my attitude into fighting and not to amp myself too much, so I think I did pretty well mentally,” Jonah Loveall said.

Before going to TBA tournaments, fighters at Larson’s gym train, go through the program, learn the beginning phase, go through sparring and then eventually get to competition. They usually try for a team of five.

They are going to go the United States Muay Thai Open East Championships in New York in November.

Although Rivas didn’t win a belt, he impressed Larson, who thinks his experience of going to the expo will pay off.

“Oh it went good, even though I didn’t win any belt, I had a great time,” Rivas said. “Fighting my first opponent, I learned a lot from that fight because when you’re in the ring, it’s not like when you’re in the gym, it’s for real.”

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