In 2017, Natalie Marie Corbin was in desperate need of a refresh in her life.
Her husband, Aaron, a military veteran, returned home from his second tour of active duty. But a short time later, after exhibiting abnormal symptoms, doctors discovered a fist-sized brain tumor. Nearly five years after that diagnosis, which included chemotherapy and radiation treatments due to the tumor being inoperable, Aaron succumbed to the condition in March 2015.
In the wake of such a soul-shaking experience, Corbin packed her car, leaving behind her home state of Pennsylvania for Los Angeles, California. There she pursued her passion as an interior designer.
But something was missing.
Kollins Ezekh was born in Russia to a Nigerian father and Russian mother. The family eventually moved to Thailand when Ezekh was 10 and by the time he turned 12, Ezekh began practicing Muay Thai. Being a product of such a diverse background, it’s natural there existed within him the appetite to explore.
His desire to discover and meet new people was put in action on his 25th birthday. That day, Ezekh boarded an airplane with a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. He crossed nine time zones and an imposing expanse of ocean on a quest to continue his work in the fitness industry and helping people pursue their goals of being healthy.
“I feel like I was very blessed to be able to live and grow up in different countries,” Ezekh said. “And being exposed to diversity like this definitely makes me more humble. I believe that kind of made me want to treat everybody the same, because I grew up getting treated differently in different cultures. And that's one of the reasons why I also became vegan. I'm trying to be very fair to everybody.”
Since moving to California in 2013, Ezekh, who has been a trainer overall for about 16 years, has owned and managed several fitness facilities, including opening the first Mayweather Boxing & Fitness location on Wilshire Boulevard.
Friends convinced Corbin, who was working out at another gym and occasionally boxing, to try out the Mayweather gym. It was there she began to tap into that thing that was missing in her life. In addition to falling in love with boxing, she began to pursue a budding passion for helping others when it comes to their health.
Boxing was like a challenge for me. Something that created growth within myself, a strength within myself.
It was something rooted in Corbin’s mission to care for her late husband. She immersed herself into fitness and nutrition. Although interior design remains a passion, something she learned from her stepdad, that calling to help others was undeniable.
“Boxing was like a challenge for me,” Corbin said. “Something that created growth within myself, a strength within myself, but also something that I could use in other aspects and avenues of my life considering what I was going through.”
As she began to learn and grow, so did the relationship between Corbin and Ezekh. The two have embarked on a journey that not only includes boxing. A new chapter in their lives includes each other. In addition to their relationship, the pair have been integral in each other’s life when it comes to health and spiritually. They’ve also shared their passion for boxing with the world.
The couple has traveled to landmarks in China, Mexico City, England and Thailand, among other locations, where they have put on boxing showcases. It’s usually Corbin in boxing gloves hitting the mitts held by Ezekh. For Corbin, Thailand and China stood out because of the culture and level of kindness she experienced in both locations.
“Everyone's so friendly, so it was just a cool place,” she said of Thailand. “To be able to go there and box on the Great Wall of China, that was pretty amazing. Just to know the amount of history there and the thought that probably no one had ever been there and done something like that. So that was kind of a cool moment to be able to hike up there and check that out and just learning their culture because we really got to talk to locals. It's just interesting to always learn other people's stories.”
Generally speaking, when people take trips, boxing gloves, hand wraps and mitts are not part of the deal. There have been several times when Corbin and Ezekh have gotten strange looks from other passengers and sometimes even airport security.
“We get all kinds of looks from the security or whoever's in line seeing us taking out all the boxing gloves and whatnot,” Ezekh said with a laugh. “I guess they don't usually see that.”
In the same way a person gains confidence when in the gym after mastering a combination or finishing a workout, there’s a certain feeling he has while traveling with his boxing equipment.
“I think it's empowering, traveling with that stuff,” he said. “When athletes, and I'm sure with everybody else, put the gloves on you feel like a champion or there is some sort of release that goes on in your brain. That you're about to fight or you are the winner. And the same thing just rocking the brand Hayabusa. It is, in my mind, associated with winning, affiliated with GSP, especially being one of the biggest names with the brand. I think it definitely makes us look cooler, having Hayabusa with us.”
As the two have dedicated their days to training others and allowing them to achieve milestones that once seemed impossible, each have had unique experiences with their clients.
For Ezekh, because he has been at it for so long, many of his clients are like family. He has watched them grow, go on to have families and continue with their training. One client that stands out is Yanet Gonzalez, who has been wheelchair bound her entire life.
“She's a super hard worker, she always shows up,” Ezekh said. “She always does her best when she trains with me, but the main thing about her … she is a therapist herself and she helps other people. Whenever somebody has a problem, they'll come up to her office.”
The satisfaction they receive is not just in person. Many times during a week, the pair will receive text messages from clients who are grateful for the life-changing guidance Corbin and Ezekh have been able to provide.
Although Corbin earned her degree in interior design and has been able to transform living spaces within buildings, it doesn’t compare to the changes she has helped many make in their own life.
“It's a great feeling because it starts to click within them, too,” she said. “And overall in their life, they're making healthier decisions. So it's a really rewarding feeling to know that you're able to help people start achieving something that you feel inside. It's a rewarding feeling, knowing that they're able to make changes and start to understand things in a different mind and that you're inspiring people.”
Back in 2017, Corbin got in her car and drove from one side of the United States to the other. She didn't know what she would find, but it was something she needed.
What she discovered in the process is the strength to cope and love again.
“It just made me feel like I needed to trust a little bit more and understand it's hard at first, she said. “I just was always graced with a lot of strength, so I knew that in time, a new normalization was going to come. And you have the opportunity to wake up and be alive, so you have to keep living while you're here. I'm in a good mind space. I have been in a good mindset for a long time. Nothing can really prepare you for the things that you go through, but you have to understand that nothing's fair in life and you always have to keep working through it no matter what you're faced with.”