Manawatū fighters Brad Morgan, left, Corey Governor, Lucas Bush, Nathaniel Hastelow and Robert Baxter are competing at the world kickboxing championships in Wales this week.
After “10 years of doubt” a former addict is going to what will be the pinnacle of his sporting career as part of a group of Manawatū fighters going to the WKA world kickboxing championship in Wales.
Robert Baxter, a member at Fight Shop NZ in Palmerston North, is one of five fighters from Manawatū competing at the event in Prestatyn this week.
Also going are his Fight Shop club-mates Nathaniel Hastelow and Brad Morgan, as well as Lucas Bush of Rangitīkei MMA and Tākaro BJJ-MMA’s Corey Governor.
They were selected after trials, and since they were chosen they have all been training hard for what will be the pinnacle of their careers.
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Baxter, who also trained at Tākaro, was entered in the 77kg MMA and glory categories at the event and he said his training had been going well.
“I've been doing a lot of mental health training, that's the big thing for me. In the past, I’m a former meth addict and that wrecked me for a few years, that's what's driving me.
“I feel like I’m going over to represent the addicts in recovery.”
Baxter was fighting about 10 years ago, but broke his hand in a competition, got depressed, couldn’t train and “went down a dark track”.
It led to substance abuse, but last year he started training again, relapsed, then started training again and sought help.
He said after everything he had gone through, it meant so much to be going to this event.
He said Governor got him in “as a punching bag” for their training, but he ended up being selected and since he returned to training had lost 16kg.
“I’m feeling empowered and hopefully I inspire anyone suffering from addiction.”
He said he had been through 10 years of doubt and regret.
“Now the opportunity has come back around, I’d be a fool to miss the bus or let it pass.”
Governor has been training since March and has been going to Auckland for training at the famed City Kickboxing gym.
“This is the pinnacle. I’m stoked for my club back home in Tākaro to show them there's an opportunity to do this coming from where they're from.”
He has fought in Australia and played touch internationally, but going to the world championships for kickboxing was a first.
He is entered in the MMA and combat boxing competitions.
Hastelow is fighting in the 80-83kg K1 kickboxing and K1 light points categories. He said the whole team was excited and had been doing a lot of fitness testing and training.
He had been doing 20km runs every couple of days.
“Personally I want to fight to my maximum potential. I know what I'm capable of.”
How many fights he had would depend on the category and how many people entered, but he hoped to have more than 10.
“It is [a lot], but that's what we want. I’m ready to go, I can't wait.”
Morgan has one leg and is competing in the under-67kg para division in K1 kickboxing and combat boxing. He has an artificial leg and puts a cover on it when he fights.
He normally fights able-bodied people, where he more than holds his own, because there are few other para competitors for him to fight. So he was excited to get to the world event.
Marton man Bush is competing in the 70kg MMA division and it will be the biggest event he’s been to.
“I just want to go and fight, represent my town and the place I'm from, my family and myself and New Zealand.”
His most recent fight was a loss a couple of months ago to James Vake from City Kick Boxing for the New Zealand UFS title.
But he had “just come off the couch” then and had done much more preparation for the trip to Wales, so was feeling confident.