The King in the Ring 8 Man tournament returned to the ASB Stadium on Saturday night for its 7th instalment. Reigning heavyweight champion Antz Nansen defended his crown and took home the $15000 grand prize after three gruelling bouts. The victory was anything but a walk in the park, as each subsequent fight picked up in intensity culminating in a toe-to-toe brawl with finalist Nato Laauli. Yet the grand finale was just the cherry on top of a fantastic night of fights that lived up to the reputation of the King in the Ring series.
City Kickboxing’s Benson Eaves fought Wayne Huha from Wild Stables for the chance to take the reserve spot for the 8 man tournament. Eaves dropped Huha with a huge straight right midway through the first round. Huha made the count but was knocked unconscious by a brutal left hook-uppercut combo shortly after.
In the first bout of the 8 Man Tournament, Pane “The Punisher” Haraki faced Grizzly Thai Boxing’s Tussi Afaso. Afaso stalked Haraki from the beginning, throwing power shots and boxing in to the clinch. Haraki counter-struck and landed the cleaner punches to take the split decision.
The second tournament bout saw “Notorious” Antz Nansen dominate a game but overmatched Dan “The Man” Stirling. Nansen walked Stirling down with some excellent body punching with Stirling finding some success in the clinch. Nansen landed several solid hooks but never forced the finish, showing his experience and conserving his energy en route to a unanimous decision.
The always entertaining “Diamond Flyer” Faisal Zakaria dropped a unanimous decision to ETK’s Tafa “Thumper” Misipati in a great bout that had the crowd on their feet and both men laughing. Zakaria threw some excellent knees but it wasn’t enough as Misipati took the win with his relentless pace and huge overhand punches.
Alpha Muay Thai product and eventual finalist Nato Laauli edged ETK North Shore’s Josh “Jaguar” Heta in a competitive bout to close out the first round of the tournament. Laauli fired off a bunch of high kicks which Heta answered with a few big right hands. Heta was dropped in the third round by a right hand and, although he made the count, didn’t get the decision.
In the first of the quarter finals, Antz Nansen cruised past Pane Haraki who was effectively fighting on one leg after a huge kick from Nansen. Nansen had Haraki wobbled in the second round but let him off the hook and took the unanimous decision.
Quarter final two saw Tafa Misipati drop a split decision to Nato Laauli, avoiding an ETK v ETK final. Both men fought at a considerably slower pace than in their opening bouts and fatigue looked to be a real issue. Two spinning kicks from Misipati were countered with punches from Laauli who took the win and headed to the final to face “Notorious” Antz Nansen.
The final fight was the essence of everything the King in the Ring series is about. After two punishing bouts, Nato Laauli threw everything he had at the reigning champion over three rounds. Laauli clipped Nansen in the first round with a counter left hook that had “Notorious” staggered but true to form Nansen came back with some heavy shots. The second round saw Nansen use excellent head movement to avoid the looping hooks of Laauli. Round three exemplified the heart and drive of both men. Running on fumes, they stood toe-to-toe in centre ring and exchanged with everything they had left. It was Nansen who had just a little bit more in the tank, doing enough to take the unanimous decision and the $15000 grand prize.
Sanchai Aung (City Kickboxing) def Joey “The Filipino Kid” Baylon (ETK) via UD
Gaella “The Slayer” Nixon (Fighting Fit Academy) def Baybee “Pitbull” Nansen (SMAC Gym) via UD
Benson Eaves (City Kickboxing) def Wayne Huha (Wild Stables) via KO RD1
Pane “The Punisher” Haraki (Haraki Gym) def Tussi Afaso (Grizzly Thaiboxing) via SD
Antz “Notorious” Nansen (ETK) def Dan “The Man” Stirling (He Toa Muay Thai) via UD
Tafa “Thumper” Misipati (ETK) def Faisal “Diamond Flyer” Zakaria (Diamond Flyer Muay Thai) UD
Nato Laauli (Alpha Muay Thai) def Josh “Jaguar” Heta (ETK North Shore) via UD
Nikolas “The Greek” Charalampous def Scott Taliauli via RD2 Ref Stoppage
Edwyn “Electric” Samy (ETK) def Mikaera “Shotgun” Povey (Helensville Thai Boxing) via UD
Antz “Notorious” Nansen (ETK) def Pane “The Punisher” Haraki (Haraki Gym) via UD
Nato Laauli (Alpha Muay Thai) def Tafa “Thumper” Misipati (ETK) via UD
Tony Angelov (City Lee Gar) def Andrew Bannam (Jackals Gym) via KO RD1
Pati “The Arsenal” Afoa (ETK) def Kyle “The Knee Assassin” Gallacher (Assassins Guild) via UD
Antz “Notorious” Nansen (ETK) def Nato Laauli (Alpha Muay Thai) via UD