In the ring with Robby Squyres, Jr., SF's Muay Thai hope
That opportunity was World Team USA, where he works in exchange for lessons — scrubbing mats, leading workouts, and opening up the school in the morning. He likens finding Muay Thai to a spiritual awakening.
Though many Muay Thai schools advertise danger and action, World Team USA's logo is surrounded by three words: courage, honor, and respect. Squyres even teaches anti-bullying classes at Wallenberg, hoping to reach teenagers like those who attacked him.
"My school helped me become a better man and walk my faith," Squyres, a born-again Christian, said. "To show what my life was, and what it is."
What it is now is laser-focused passion.
In the month leading up to his fight he lost nearly 40 pounds, dropping from the super heavyweight category to the heavyweight category. The week before the match Kru Sam allowed him to eat nothing but one avocado per day.
"Every day I dreamed of Jamba Juice mixed with pizza," he said. "It was probably worse than a pregnant woman's cravings."
As the sun faded at the fairgrounds, Kru Sam told us the fight "is a testing ground for him, to see his potential for the future. But no matter the outcome, I'll be proud of him."
All of this flashed in Squyres' mind before his match. His trigger struck: the brush with death bringing his rage, the peace he learned from Kru Sam bringing him calm.
The announcer called Squyres to the ring in a booming baritone. His opponent, Steven Grigsby of Stockton, couldn't have been more physically different. Squyres' body is broad and naturally thick, while Grigsby is hard and lean, with wiry muscle. Torches surrounded the ring, and the flames whipped in the wind. Squyre's mom, Winki, sat in the crowd, biting on her knuckles.
"Ding!" The bell sounded, and the two circled.
Grigsby scored the first shot, a foot connecting with Squyres' side. The heavy-set San Franciscan returned with a flurry of fists to Grigsby's head, snapping him back. The two met legs in mid-section kicks.
The match ended without a decisive lead, but that soon would change.
Muay Thai is known as the "art of eight limbs." The following rounds made that more than clear. Grigsby's fists flurried at Squyres, with elbows and legs soon twisted around each. Squyres took it again and again, falling back.
"SWEEP, BOBBY, SWEEP!" Kru Sam shouted from the side. Something snapped in Squyres. As Grigsby swooped in for the attack, he flipped his body around in a twist, the momentum swinging his fist like a sledgehammer hard into the side of Grigsby's head.
The crowd cheered.
When the match was over, Squyres was declared the winner by unanimous decision. Tears streaked his face as he walked from the ring to the fellow fighters from his dojo, to Kru Sam, and to his mother.
"I'm so thankful," he said. Through the tears he unwrapped the bandages from his fists.
Robby Squyres, Jr.'s next fight is tentatively July 19 at the Battle of the Pacific in San Jose; check out www.ikfkickboxing.com for details.
Bobby Squyres, Jr., connects a first with Steven Grigsby of Stockton at the Battle of the Pacific, at the Contra Costa Fairgrounds. Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez.