Ashton “One Whack Medivac” Castro has been on a seven-fight roll, where life has been upright bliss — no staring at the ceiling from his back.
Castro takes a winning streak that includes kickboxing and mixed martial arts into one of the featured bouts tonight at the Toughman Hawaii event, fighting a worthy opponent in Paul “The Animal” Norman. The event begins at 6 p.m. at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and includes several bouts.
Norman, 25, holds a 1-0 record in kickboxing and an 8-4 mark in MMA. The 6-foot-5 skyscraper last fought in the Unorthodox Industries Championship in March on Maui, losing in the second round.
A victory to get his momentum heading in the proper direction and entertainment value are foremost on the 2006 Pahoa High graduate’s mind.
“Ashton is pretty well-rounded. It should be a good one,” Norman said. “I want to give the people a good show. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I don’t see myself falling or my career stopping.
“I’ve been fighting since high school and have been training in martial arts my whole life, since I was in the second grade.”
It may be hard to believe, but Norman was once small for his age. He got picked on, and the bullying became worse when his family moved to the mainland, after his younger brother, William, was diagnosed with leukemia at 3 years old.
The family moved to California for medical reasons. Norman was then just a freshman. He played football on the defensive line and at tight end. The family returned to Puna before his senior year.
“My grandpa (Ronald Hess) got tired of me getting picked on and showed me how to fight,” Norman said. “He’s a fifth-degree black belt in Okinawan Tae. He has his own dojo in California. I was bullied here and California. There, it was a different setting because I was the new kid. My grandpa started training me, and I’ve never stopped.”
His brother is now 12 years old and in remission. He’s going to school and provides Norman with inspiration to this day, even though the cancer ordeal was nearly a decade ago.
“He never gave up. He was really tough. He was 3 or 4 years old, and he never cried,” Norman said. “I’d watch him on the table, and they’d stick needles in him. He was so young and was suffering, and I’d think my life at the time wasn’t so bad. It made me appreciate what I have.”
He’s a farmer on the side and father to a 3-year-old daughter, Nyiiyah. He wanted a different spelling for his daughter. As far as his fight life, like most, Norman is chasing the pro dream.
“I want to keep going,” he said. “My backup plan is I want to be an MMA or kickboxing coach. I want to help kids.”
In the fighting arena, Norman’s strength is his built-in skill set, namely his length. He’s also got good speed from his football days. His mindset is old school: take one to give one.
“I don’t mind getting hit. I’m coming straight forward. If I get hit, I don’t back down. I keep my hands up and keep coming forward,” Norman said. “I do what I do. I’m mostly a stand-up fighter anyway. I use my reach and speed. I pick my spots and go from there. I find my range and fire.”
Castro is 6 feet and at an obvious reach disadvantage. Takedowns are not allowed in kickboxing. The options are stay on the perimeter and practice patience while waiting for an opening, or charge in to close the gap.
The key to his seven-fight winning streak?
Run the red light and attack, be aggressive and get through the door first.
“It was letting go,” Castro said of his winning streak. “Before I would hold back a lot. I was too cautious. I know I have to close the distance (against Norman) and be first to the punch. That’s the way it usually works out best, instead of waiting to get hit.”
Castro, 27, has won his last four kickboxing bouts and last three MMA fights. He’s now 9-5 in kickboxing and 14-8 in MMA.
He’s often mistaken for his brother, Raymond, who could pass for his twin. But that’s not the most notable thing about Castro. It’s his durability. He’s the Cal Ripken Jr. of the Hilo fighting world.
“I try to fight in every show. I’ve fought in every show this year. I like to stay active,” he said. “I’m going on my 10th year. Next January will make 10 years.
“I do it as a hobby. I’m not looking to go far. If it (big-ticket pro career) comes, it comes. It’s a hobby. That’s why I usually fight in Hilo. I’ve had offers to fight off-island. But I’m more comfortable in Hilo.”