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Kickboxer Sefo sitting pretty in violent world A champion who wins, stays unhurt


Posted 01-12-99

The Denver Post
01/03/99
By Page C7
Non-Xena graphic

COMMENTARY
Article about Ray Sefo, a kickboxer who has appeared on XWP and HTLJ.

EXCERPT

PRIMARY SOURCE

   Ray Sefo has the looks of a movie star. The smile of a model. The
rest of the world champion kickboxer's body is in charge of keeping that
handsome face intact, something that it does very well.

   After 30 professional bouts, Sefo's face remains unscarred. During his
eight-year career, he has accumulated four world titles among his 28 victories.
One loss and one draw are his only blemishes.  

   So in his spare time, which isn't much, the current heavyweight and
superheavyweight champion does some modeling and acting, careers he hopes to
pursue after he is done battering the faces of other less fortunate kickboxers.

   "I've seen some guys after fights and they are really beaten up and bruised,"
said Sefo, relaxing in the cafeteria of the Greenwood Athletic Club after
putting on a 30-minute exhibition of punches and kicks for an aerobic-kickboxing
class.

   How, then, has he managed to keep those chiseled features from being
rearranged?

   "I've had so many people ask me, 'How do you get away without your face
getting busted up"' said the 28-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand. "I'm
fortunate. The man upstairs is looking after me."

   Divine intervention aside, Sefo has rapidly risen to the upper echelon of his
sport, which combines martial arts and boxing, because of uncanny speed and
anticipation.

   "I'm quick and good with my eyes. I read my opponents and react well to
moves," he said.

   While Sefo's 6-foot, 215-pound frame doesn't lack for power, he is almost
always at a size disadvantage. Superheavyweight kickboxers average about 6-3 and
230 pounds.

   "Sometimes I wish I was a little taller," he said. "Especially when I'm up
against guys who are like 6-7. But I still beat them."

   Inspired by martial arts movies, Sefo took up Wing Chun - a discipline used
by Bruce Lee in his movies - when he was 15. He alternated between playing
rugby and martial arts training for about five years.

   "(Martial arts) were fascinating to me. I would watch guys like Bruce Lee and
Jackie Chan jumping up and down, using their hands and feet to do all these
moves. I thought, I can do that," Sefo said.

   "For me the attraction was self-defense, discipline and fitness. I never
thought of competing."

   But when a fighter from the gym he trained at in New Zealand was forced out
of a bout because of injury, the competitor from a rival gym challenged Sefo. He
apprehensively accepted, not about to duck a challenge.

   "My mind said no, but my heart was saying yes," Sefo said.

   It took Sefo three rounds to knock out his opponent. After four amateur
fights, he turned pro in 1990.

   "Three years into competition my trainer told me, 'You have what it takes to
be a world champion. It's up to you if you want to pursue this,"' Sefo said. "We
sat down and set some goals."

   Since then he has become the first kickboxer to win world titles in four
weight classes. He has held the light cruiserweight and cruiserweight crowns, in
addition to the two titles he now owns.

   Sefo has just signed his second contract with K1 in Japan, the most
prestigious kickboxing organization in the world. K1, also known as the "Best of
the Best," trains and promotes only the 10 best superheavyweight kickboxers in
the world.

   He will be returning to the United States later this year for two kickboxing
events in Las Vegas. An exact date hasn't been set for the two cards, but the
first is expected to be in the summer.

   After his current contract with K1 runs out, he'd like to turn his full
attention to acting. He has done some work in films and television shows, such
as "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys." For now,
Kevin Sorbo can rest easy.

   "We've all been given a talent. We just have to put our minds to discovering
it and take it from there. Mine is to be a fighter."

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