Seven years and three surgeries later, Mostafa Sabeti is back on the podium.
The 37-year-old Semiahmoo Peninsula resident – who runs Golden Glory Martial Arts in White Rock – won gold earlier this month in the heavyweight division of the IKF World Kickboxing Classic in Orlando, Fla., winning his final bout against “a very strong fighter” from Puerto Rico after a third-round knockout.
His recent medal was his first since 2011, when he won gold in the 90-kg division of World Kickboxing Association Canadian National Championships in Montreal. That win – which came courtesy of a 12-second knockout – came just a week after Sabeti, who is originally from Iran, was sworn in as a Canadian citizen – a process that took, in total, eight years.
Since that victory, however, Sabeti hasn’t had much success in the ring. More specifically, injuries have robbed him of the opportunity to even compete.
His performance in Montreal earned him an invite to join Canada’s national team, but before his first big competition in Canadian colours – 2011 world championships in Germany – he injured his shoulder. Still, he managed to win silver in his weight class, though he says the injury “was the main reason I couldn’t win the final.”
Since then, Sabeti explained to Peace Arch News, he struggled to fully heal and get back into fighting condition, despite three different shoulder surgeries to try and fix the problem.
Not able to compete himself, Sabeti turned his attention to his students at Golden Glory, many of whom have gone on to win provincial, national and even international accolades, including South Surrey teenager Joseph Piccolo, who last summer won gold fighting against men at the same IKF (International Kickboxing Federation) event at which Sabeti recently placed first.
“Because of the injury, I was absent from tournaments and serious training,” Sabeti said.
“This year, I (turned) 37, but I always wanted to go back to fighting again and teach my son and my students that they shouldn’t give up under any circumstances.”
In the run-up to this month’s event in Florida, Sabeti said he started his training “at a very, very low level of intensity” in order to see if his shoulder was up to the task.
“When I started feeling better, I increased the intensity of my training until I started to get back into fighting shape.”
From there, he ramped up his training sessions to twice a day – while still running his gym and teaching his pupils – and eventually participated in a handful of local fights, doing well in each. More importantly, his shoulder remained strong, which gave him the confidence to step into the ring at the World Classic.
In his first fight in Orlando, Sabeti “got by” his first opponent, before squaring up with a talented kickboxer from the U.S. Sabeti won that match with two knockdown points to advance to the championship round against his Puerto Rican foe.
One minute into the third round, Sabeti knocked out his opponent to win the belt.
“I trained a lot… and I had a lot of obstacles in front of me – hours of teaching, working hard, training, injuries – but I tried not to let anything stop me,” he said of his comeback.
“My whole point was to show my students and my family (that) you should never give up.”
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