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Professional Kickboxer Shawn Yacoubian Talks With Autogrrrl

It is very possible that Shawn Yacoubian, a 29 year old native of Pasadena, CA, will be the next welterweight champion. When he isn't training or fighting at the Mirage in Las Vegas, he is spending time with family and managing their business, Honda Only. Starting his training at the age of 15, he adjusted from an early age to training while attending school or working as an adult, and also takes great pride in his American Armenian heritage. Shawn talks with Autogrrrl about the challenges and rewards of being a successful kickboxer and auto business owner.

AG: What do you do at Honda Only?
Shawn: I am the Manager of Honda Only. My father was in the auto business since he was 16 back in his country in Syria. My parents moved here in 1975 where my father George had his own body shop and continued his trade. I grew up in the auto shop, I was there a lot in my younger years so my father taught my brother Raffi and I a lot. In 1998 the original owners of Honda Only retired and through a business proposition sold it to my father. Honda Only had been in business since 1982 and was one of the first salvage yards in Sun Valley, Ca. Since we've owned it, business has been good because unlike other yards, its in a clean environment and is very convenient to customers needs... you not only purchase parts at a bargain, but there is on site parts installation, aftermarket performance parts, bodywork, mechanic services and auto paint offered there.

AG: We understand you have an Accord, why did you choose that car?
Shawn: Living in LA is tough as far as driving. I've always loved the European cars like Benz and BMW, but since my money is tied up in business, I chose a 2003 Honda Accord Coupe V6. Its fair on gas, looks hard when lowered and tinted, comfortable and roomy, the entire vehicle is not too large in situations where you need to park and has decent handling and a bit of power with some quickness. I had a friend at a local Honda dealer that hooked me up with a great price on a lease. My next car is either a BMW 330 or IS 350 maybe sometime in July. That's if I don't find a great deal at an auction before then.

AG: You are a very busy person, where does your motivation come from?
Shawn: My motivation comes within to be a world champion, and making my nationality as an American Armenian known. Everyone is given a gift, this is one of mine, and I don't believe in wasted talent. I have many friends; but when it comes to show time, I become very determined and at the same time distant from family and friends.

AG: How do you find balance in running your business, being a professional athlete and spending time with friends and family?
Shawn: Strict discipline plays a large role when it comes to training; and Honda Only being a family business and all, we cover each others' backs

AG: What was it like to train at Jet Center and House of Champions?
Shawn: When I started at the Jet Center I was about 15 years old, so for me at such a young age to be surrounded by big movie stars- like Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, along with other known actors and fighters, and of course not to leave out Benny the Jet himself- it was very overwhelming, but exciting because the quality of the teaching was top grade and strict. The Jet Center went bankrupt I think in 1998, so I didn't go to the gym for a year until I heard "House of Champions" had just opened up in Van Nuys. Benny opened the Jet Gym in North Hollywood but I ended up going to HOC because of Peter "Sugarfoot" Cunningham, who is now a 7 time undefeated kickboxing legend.

AG: Tell us what it was it like to fight at the Mirage?
Shawn: Fighting at the Mirage was a huge deal to me, simply for the fact it was a K-1 show, Las Vegas and my pro-debut. I was a fan of K-1 since it first started in Japan in 1995 and continued only in Japan. Over the years it has gotten popular enough to have it in almost every country. In May 2000, they came to the USA at the Mirage; I was invited to fight on the undercard in the following show, August 2001, which I won. So May 2002 I was invited back for a pro debut against an opponent with over 20 fights. I had trained really hard and felt ready for the task ahead. Each fighter is different before show time, I am neither scared nor nervous.

AG: You have been very successful, what are some of the achievements that you are most proud of?
Shawn: The achievements that I'm most proud of in my career are my pro-debut win by knockout on a huge televised K-1 fight (''best fight of the night'' amongst world class fighters), a huge win in a Welterwieght Tournament on pay-per-view against an achieved fighter, and being able to train with the top fighters while in Thailand & Amsterdam. Also, winning an amateur title in the first ever fight show in Medford, Oregon, being able to train under my idols in the sport- Peter ''Sugarfoot'' Cunningham, Rick O'Kane, Nokweed Sriampai and strength trainer Jimmy Beilowitz, having sparring sessions with the top fighter in my sport Danny Steele and in boxing Diego Corrales, Carlos Hernandez, Hector Lopez, Gabriel Ruelas, Artyom Simonyan and Lakva Sim… promoting my nationality throughout my sport, air time interview on local Armenian programs, and to be ranked in the top 10 on a world level. On a personal level, I achieved a good education thanks to my parents who enrolled me in private school.

AG: What advice would you give to other people wanting to enter your sport professionally?
Shawn: My advice to others who are thinking of fighting is to make sure to have an excellent trainer and manager. My take on the whole thing is if your mind is right and determined to win, well that’s half the battle. Those who are born with talent and have perfected it through practice and conditioning understand that is only 10%, [the other] 90% of fighting is mental. This is a sport that does not produce as much money as boxing so don't expect it… do it for the love.

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