Muay Thai is a combat sport, and when you’re stepping into the ring for a world championship fight, as Kevin Ross will on May 14 in Primm, you’ve probably got plenty on your mind. But before the battle begins, Ross will take a moment to remember his best friend.
After all, it was Moe Couillard who pushed Ross into the sport that has made the longtime Las Vegan a world champion. But more importantly, the memory of Couillard—who died from a heart condition in 1999—helped Ross break out of an alcoholic tailspin and return to the ring.
“When Moe died, I told myself I was going to go for it. But his death led to an even bigger downward spiral,” says the 30-year-old Ross, who at the time had dropped out of Green Valley High School and was, he says, drinking his life away.
“Then one day it just hit me that the past four years I’ve done nothing with my life. I realized if he was alive, he would beat me up for not going after my dreams.”
So on a January day in 2003, Ross quit alcohol cold turkey and went straight to the gym. Despite losing his first amateur fight a few months later, Ross—who later earned his GED and graduated from the Art Institute of Las Vegas—was hooked on the sport he first saw on TV as a teenager.
“I’ll always keep doing it for Moe,” Ross said. “But there are a lot of other people now who look up to me, and I want to help motivate them or maybe influence their lives in a positive direction.”