River Daz: The sky’s the limit

Rated as one of the best amateur lightweight muay thai fighters in Victoria, ‘The Filipino Flash’ River Daz is looking to move forward in his young career as he takes on the experienced New Zealand fighter Joey Baylon in one of the main supporting bouts on Warriors Way 20 this Saturday night.

The charismatic fighter who hails from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne comes to the contest with a muay thai record of 14-0-1 and currently holds the much-coveted MTA (Muay Thai Australian) Victorian Lightweight Title. Undefeated and looking to step up into the realm of the professional elite, Daz has reached a pivotal point in his combat sports journey where he must decide whether this is a hobby or a true professional goal.

Known for his skilful boxing and fast footwork, Daz made the decision last year to try his hand at professional boxing and currently holds a 2-0-1 record. While muay thai remains his major focus, Daz told Fight News Australia that he found the move to boxing to be a great way to hone his striking skills.

“When Mark (Castagnini) and I started our boxing career it was just to keep myself busy in between fights. I love muay thai and it will always be my passion, but I grew up watching boxing and have always had a great interest in it”.

“I’m not sure where we’re going to take the boxing yet, but the sky’s the limit. The boxing community took such a liking to my high-octane, pressure style of fighting that we are continually being offered bigger and better fights”.

Stepping outside of his comfort zone by taking on not only the challenge of professional boxing, but better opponents each and every fight can largely be attributed to the strong relationship Daz has with his trainer, Mark ‘Hammer’ Castagnini.  The former Australian Cruiserweight champion, broadcaster and now promoter has helped shape Daz’s successful rise through the local muay thai scene and provides him with a steady hand of experience as he moves forward.

“I couldn’t have done this without Mark Castagnini. He has put in a lot of time and effort into me, I give my utmost respect to that man”.

“With Mark and the rest of the Hammer’s Gym backing me, I think the opportunities are endless. It’s the reason why I’m so ambitious, I have the best team besides me”.

One of the opportunities Daz refers to was the chance to fight on Lion Fight earlier in the year partly in thanks to an important partnership between Warriors Way and Lion Fight promotions in the United States. Fighting on one of the biggest muay thai promotions in the world has been a real highlight of a busy fighting year for Daz and he was able to impress all those in attendance coming away with a strong decision victory over his opponent, Diego Lamas.

“I would love to journey back to the States, last time was so surreal, I had my whole family fly out to experience it with me. Lion Fight was so professionally run, they made me feel like royalty”.

With what is sure to be greater international opportunities coming the way of Daz, he must now turn his attention to Baylon come Saturday night, who will provide stiff opposition and a real risk to his unbeaten record. Despite only losing two weeks ago on Melbourne promotion Alpha Fight Series, Baylon has all the skills at his disposal to trouble Daz and his pressure style will be sure to entertain those in attendance.

“Joey Baylon is an excellent veteran from New Zealand. He has a strong walk-forward, aggressive style that has helped make a name for him back in his hometown. Hopefully, success against Joey will afford me opportunities to travel to top tier New Zealand promotions. I’ve taken on New Zealand fighters before and they have always been tough boys willing to take one to give one back”.

Fighting regularly on his trainer’s promotion, Daz has been able to develop a strong local following,  stepping into the ring every time with the roar of the crowd lifting the energy in the venue to fever-pitch levels.

“Warriors Way will always be my home, there is nothing better than fighting in front of your family and friends. No show comes close to the atmosphere. It’s loud, brash and electrifying. It gets your blood pumping, your heart racing and I love that energy, I feed off that. I’ve certainly had my best performances at Warriors Way with the support of Hammer’s Gym, my family and my friends behind me”.

As Daz begins his transition from the amateur ranks into the professional, he will be keeping a close eye on the night’s main event where young up and comer Indigo Boyd takes on perhaps the state’s strongest lightweight in Alexi Petroulias. Having already beaten Boyd last year for the MTA Victorian title, Daz is able to provide a unique perspective on the fight.

“If Indigo keeps his discipline on the outside and utilises his footwork and agility he will cruise to a points decision. On the other hand, he is versing a seasoned professional who has accolades on top of accolades and if Alexi grabs onto him, he’s in for a world of hurt with those elbows”.

With both Boyd and Daz on a streak of wins since they last met, there is every chance that the two could both find themselves facing each other in the near future regardless of the outcomes of their respective fights on Saturday night. Presented with the prospect of a rematch, Daz is open to the idea.

“He (Boyd) has been on a roll this year and has improved tremendously since we last fought. I’d love to face Indigo again as our styles are very similar and I’m sure it would be another spectacle. Maybe worthy of a main event for a title”.

Beyond the prospect of a rematch with Boyd, the decision to make the jump into the professional ranks now presents Daz with a plethora of opponent options that were once not available to him. While his next steps will need to be charted carefully as to avoid taking on too much, too soon, the opportunity to fight some of the best lightweights in the country is one Daz will grab with both hands.

“I know that I’ll do well against most of the pros and I’m sure promoters and fighters have been waiting for this moment. I’ve heard many people talk about taking on names such as Liam McNeil, Ramesh Habib and Samuel Bark”.

“My next fight will surely be a statement to the pro division that I’m coming up. Give me the best because I’m ready. My undefeated record in muay thai and boxing is a testament to that”.

Warriors Way 20

Chris Quirk on EmailChris Quirk on Twitter
Chris Quirk
Lead Muay Thai Writer & MMA Contributor for FNA
As a former pro/am Muaythai fighter, current trainer and fresh BJJ White Belt my life revolves around all things concerning the ‘hurt business’. If it involves punches, kicks, knees and elbows than I’m interested! On the side I’m a self-confessed Melbourne Victory tragic and marketing professional by day.