“Coban Lookchaomaesaitong” was born Banlu Anwiset on August 4, 1966 in Buriram, a small city in Northeastern Thailand. He was the middle child of a farming family of seven, and the only one who found an interest in the life in Muay Thai Kickboxing.
Coban began training on his own at the age of 11. He made himself a heavy bag by packing a 100-lb canvas rice bag with sawdust and rice hulls. Driven by instinct and watching local fights, Coban shadowboxed, and worked combinations on his bag. His first fight was when he was 11 years old. It was at a fair sponsored by a Buddhist temple (there are many such fairs in Thailand). He stepped up to the scale, got his weight and entered the ring. He fought well, but the result was a draw. He didn’t quit; he continued to fight and improve. With the little money he earned, he supported this education and helped his family.
As luck or fate would have it, one year later, a physician named Sam Rhung Jong Gon (whose brother was a Muay Thai Kickboxing fighter, and himself a ringside doctor and judge) had relocated to the Public Health and Recreational Center in Buriram. He was Coban training, and invited him to train at the Center. He provided Coban with a heavy bag, and encouraged him to train. While other kids at the Center were playing soccer, Coban trained Muay Thai everyday before and after school. By the time he was 15 years old, he had fought at least 35 fights.
When Coban was ready to attend high school, Sam Rhung Jong Gon was ready to move on himself. As his last gesture of mentorship and friendship, he sent Coban to Camp Lookchaomaesaitong, where he was given the nickname Coban by one of his trainers. Coban literally means Cowboy. He spent the next nine years at the Camp. During this time, Coban ascended through the ranks and gained fame as a naturally tough fighter with instincts for Muay Thai kickboxing. He won his first World Championship at the age of 19 at Lumpinee Stadium (1985).
When Coban was 24 years old, Camp Lookchaomaesaitong closed down. Coban’s promoter at that time sent him to Bangkok to train in three camps: Ghed Bangchong, Pad Apon and Meung Suring (he kept the name Lookchaomaesaitong out of respect to his original camp). In that year, he won his second Lumpinee title (1990), his third World Championship in The Netherlands (1990), and his fourth in France (1990). A year later, Coban went on to win his fifth World Championship in Bangkok (1991), sixth in England (1991) and seventh in Australia (1991).
In 1994, Coban went to California, where he earned three additional belts. In his entire career, he as had over 270 fights. Currently, Coban teaches Muay Thai in NYC in his own camp, Coban’s Muay Thai camp.
In Coban’s words…
“I was a farmer since age 7 or younger. I took care of our buffaloes. I brought water from a well to the house. I took care of our garden. We had vegetables. Before taking care of buffaloes, we had to take hunting weapons. After taking care of buffaloes, we had to hunt for geckos, mice, fish or something for dinner. If not, then nothing to eat. Like in the movie Ong Bak. We were so poor. I didn’t have shoes or underwear until I was 11 or 12 years old. I walked barefoot and played soccer barefoot. I remember in school, in gym class, I was so shy because I had no underwear during exercise! [Coban laughs]
I remember I was always a handyman. I made my own toys using milk cans, wood sticks, old clothes…I first found out about Muay Thai boxing when I followed my cousin and friends to Temple fairs. One day, my neighbor fought. So, I fought too. I was 11. My body hurt all over. I could not squat to go to toilet! [laughs] I got 30 baht. I bought noodles and medicine [vodka mixed with suga]. Older fighters and trainers told me that vodka and sugar melts the bad blood stuck in your body after you get hurt. I had 20 baht left, and I gave it to my Mom. I drink for a long time. But I don’t drink anymore. Not at all. I am happier now. I know now.
Anyway, after my first fight, I wanted to train by myself. My father used to keep bags from fertilizer to use later for rice harvest. I stole 2 bags to make my heavy bag. He beat me for that! paaaiyaaa! [laughs)]I remember I was so short, I hang by my foot to the beam of the house. I swing around to get longer! The beam came out, and my Father was so mad. Paaaayaaaai! He beat me again! [laughs again]. But I was short so when I brought water from the well, the bucket [big metal bucket] would dig into and cut my ankle. Damn!
This is my Muay Thai NYC family: The new Coban holding my picture. In the background, Namkabuan, his wife Jiu, their son, and our fighters going through fight magazines.
I double bagged the rice bag, and hang it on a tree. My Mom used to make silk from silkworm. I stole some from her to make my hand wraps. She never hit me, but yelled at me.
Then, I needed gloves, but I had no money and no idea where to get gloves. So, I took old clothes, and drew a hand [laughs]! I cut it out and sew two pieces together. I stuffed old clothes inside, and made my gloves. I was very handy! For example, when we lived in Upstate NY, I fixed a very old farm house all by myself.