Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime
A down-to-earth mother of 3 from Wellington, Gentiane “AAA” Lupi, whose nickname comes from her willingness to fight “anyone, anywhere, anytime”, is a fighter with an impressive list of accomplishments. She fights out of the Muay Thai Institute (MTI) in Wellington, and is New Zealand’s only world champion boxer; holding the Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) Interim Super Bantamweight title, as well as 5 other national boxing and kickboxing belts spanning weight classes from 55 to 72kg.
Lupi has forged a formidable fight record, finding success in kickboxing (16-3, 3 KO), boxing (4-1-1, 2 KO), and MMA (1-1, 1 KO). These 27 total fights, as well as the daunting list of titles she holds, have been achieved in an astonishing timeframe; just 3 years as a fighter, and 4 years of total training. During this time, she has transformed herself into an elite athlete with an undeniable record.
Growing up in Wellington, Lupi was not exposed to combat sports at an early age. Her family was focused towards classical music and drama, which led her to become an actor in movies, TV, and stage productions. The passion which the 39 year old brings to fighting and training will have to find an outlet once she eventually decides to hang up her gloves, which she wistfully hopes will be a high-paying job of some description.
While she has always been a confident person, Lupi credits the challenge of fighting with further increasing her assertiveness outside the ring. She steers away from idolizing any particular fighter as a role model; however, she admires fighters who have the ability to control themselves and act in a dignified manner amidst the tumultuous sea of emotions that is competitive fighting.
Lupi is quick to point out the challenges and stresses of balancing being a full-time mother as well as an elite fighter, stating jokingly that “it’s very difficult and very stressful, and I don’t advise it”. She acknowledges that her social life has been curtailed by her fighting lifestyle, and that it is difficult to keep up with friends outside of the circle of fighters and trainers with which she surrounds herself.
When asked about whether she views fight training as a stress relief, Lupi says “perspiration is like forcing your soul to be cleansed, and any sort of exercise is a great antidepressant and medication for our society, because as humans we don’t live very humanely”. Profound words from a pugilist.
Lupi is quick to downplay her fearsome reputation in the ring, and states that she never expected to become a fighter. When asked about what keeps her striving for excellence with such an impressive fighting resume already, she replies “I like new records that people haven’t done before; I like overriding people’s expectations and racking up achievements”.
A typical day of fight preparation starts early for Lupi, who arrives at the gym as early as 5:30am. This first session consists of bag and pad work with her trainer, as well as a 5km run. After this, she heads back home for breakfast and to take her kids to school, before coming back to the gym between 12 and 2:30pm to do another 10km run, followed by more pad and bag work. Then in the evenings, she takes part in the normal classes with the rest of the MTI team. Despite acknowledging their necessity, she only reluctantly takes rest days, viewing them as a waste of potential training time.
With her life over the last 3 years basically consisting of back-to-back fight preparation, Lupi has become an expert in her body’s nutritional needs. She has identified what works for her, and despite her disciplined diet, still keeps the pantry at home stocked with baked treats for her kids.
She is extremely grateful for the support of those around her, stating “None of it is possible without my family. Supporting is a tough word, because it implies that they have a choice [laughing]. They don’t really have a choice; I’m going to do it anyway, but they’re good at accepting that”. She also credits much of her success to the unwavering support of MTI’s head trainer, Mark Hampton, who has always encouraged her to set her goals high, and whose “poker face” in the face of any doubt has boosted her confidence in herself immensely.
Her natural weight class, in terms of international competition, would be 57-58kg. The fact that she has competed over such a broad range of weight classes she attributes to the relatively shallow talent pool of female fighters here in New Zealand. She is eager to compete on a more international stage, but has found it a difficult circuit to crack into. When asked what her preferred fighting discipline is, Lupi remains ambivalent, stating that she enjoys the challenge of trying new things.
Despite having 2 MMA fights, she does not train in grappling arts regularly. During the fight training she undertook for those fights, Lupi describes it as being enjoyable and much more emotionally intense. She would like to fight MMA again, if the opportunity presents itself. Also, she has fought twice in 4-woman tournaments, both times being victorious. If the opportunity was there, she would compete in another, stating that after a fight she often identifies things she could have done better, with the tournament format giving an opportunity to rectify these things in a subsequent fight on the same night.
She will need all of her boxing skills and experience when she steps into the ring opposite Daria “the Boss” Smith on the 5th September in Auckland. The 2 adversaries have faced each other twice before, under modified Muay Thai and kickboxing rules respectively, taking home one win apiece. The rubber match will take place under boxing rules, which, given AAA’s boxing credentials, should give her an advantage over aggressive kickboxer Smith.
While it would be foolish to advertise her game plan prior to the fight, Lupi admits that she has been working extensively with southpaw boxers in preparation for the left-handed Smith. The absence of kicks and knees will alter the strategy of both fighters, but Lupi states that there are certain habits and elements of her opponent’s style which will be too hard to unlearn in such a short timeframe, and has taken this into account when building her strategy.
If you are going to be in Auckland on Saturday the 5th of September, be sure to head to ABA Stadium to see the climatic 3rd battle between Gentiane “AAA” Lupi and Daria “the Boss” Smith. Will Lupi’s heavy hands and forward pressure win the day, or will wily southpaw Smith be triumphant? Doors open at 6pm, and tickets are available from Eventfinda.