A Cemetery Life: Richard Abraham and the Power of “Here Lies An Unknown Soldier”

By Frank Forza Curreri

Richard Abraham, who faces Ky Hollenbeck in the Lion Fight 24 main event Friday night, has been hailed for his remarkable toughness. A probing into the 29-year-old Chicagoan’s upbringing – a prison guard father and a breast cancer-battling mother – might explain the source of his fortitude.

I spoke with “Maximus” (7-2 Muay Thai record) about his opponent, Growing Up Abraham and moonlighting for years at a cemetery and inscribing words on tombstones.

Growing up Richard Abraham, what stands out?

Even when I was a kid I liked to fight; it’s always something I enjoyed.

When we were younger my brother and I would grab hockey sticks and hit each other, so my Dad bought us two pairs of 16-ounce boxing gloves, threw them at us and said, “You guys want to fight like a man? Stand up, put the gloves on, swing away and when it’s done shake hands.”

So that’s kind of how it all started. Pretty much from that point on, whenever we had a disagreement, we would go out on the front lawn and box it out.

My Dad, he raised us very well and to say, “Yes sir” “No sir” to people. To this day I still say “Yes sir” to my father. He taught us to always be respectful to others and to be very organized, neat and disciplined.

My mom passed away when I was 12 years old to breast cancer so he really did a phenomenal job with my brother, sister and me.

Photo of Muay Thai fighter Richard “Maximus” Abraham, courtesy of his Twitter account.

When your Mom passed, how did you cope with it?

I was a Mama’s Boy so it was very tough and hard to understand why that would happen. At the time, we built strength from that. It taught me a lot about life and made me the person I am today.

My mom battled breast cancer for 11 years.

I remember my mother being sick a lot but she was a very tough and positive person. She always looked after her kids.

Everyone always remarked how nice my mom was; she was very involved in school activities and the arts and crafts and things like that. She always put everyone before herself.

My mother was in a wheelchair sometimes – she couldn’t walk because of the chemo. But she never complained, never griped. She just thanked the Lord for every day.

After graduating high school, what direction did you pursue?

I went to a community college but school really wasn’t for me. I like to work with my hands and be out in the field. So I bought and truck and invested in my own business … pretty much we go around the Chicago and Wisconsin area from cemetery to cemetery inscribing names, dates, pictures, designs and cleaning and engraving tombstones.

So you spend a lot of time at cemeteries.

My dog and I are pretty much out there every day.

As part of your job, have you ever inscribed a message on a grave which you found memorable and never forgot?

Yeah, there was this one guy … it was kind of at a country cemetery … We had to engrave on the tombstone, “Here Lies An Unknown Soldier.” I always remembered that.

Ever feel spooked out in the cemetery?

Just one time because my Dog freaked out and jumped in the truck; he was really spooked. But other than that I don’t ever feel spooked because I grew up in a family that sold headstones so I’ve been going to a cemetery since I was 5 or 6 years old.

Fighting professionally, what is the thrill for you? 

I’m a very competitive person. I was intensely into bodybuilding before – I was actually 240 pounds. Then someone brought me to the Muay Thai gym and punched me in the face … I thought, “This is a lot of fun!”

Then all of the sudden one day I got kicked in the leg.

And I thought, ‘Why is someone kicking me in the leg?’ And then I couldn’t walk for the next two or three days.”

It started to make a lot of sense after that. I fell in love with it.

I’m very extreme in the things that I do; I’m either all in or all-out. After that I put down the weights and started training stand-up, shadow-boxing in the shower. It just became an obsession.

What are your impressions of Ky Hollenbeck’s fighting style and what must you do to beat him?

He’s a very talented and unpredictable fighter, he represents America and I think we have similar styles. He throws from a every angle, he likes to use his hands … I have nothing but respect for him.

I train a lot of different ways and I don’t think I’ve ever used the same style twice. So I’m good at adapting during fights. I envision a war – a really high-paced, competitive, tough fight. It’s going to be an awesome and explosive fight.