Interview with Roger 'Wild' Earp

NZF: Hi Roger, how are you going?

RE: I’m good thanks.

NZF: Tell us a bit about yourself.

RE: I grew up in Mt Eden. I was skateboarder, and went to school occasionally (just kidding..). When I was at school, many moons ago, probably 18 years ago I got into Thai Boxing. I have been heavily involved since.

NZF: Tell us about your fighting background.

RE: I got into it when I was young, still at school. I suppose it was a bit about wanting to learn to fight. Also about self defence. I also wanted to find something that really challenged me. I had been playing rugby league before that and thought that would make me tough, but after going to the local kickboxing club I realised that was the way to go. So that’s where it all started. I was in New Zealand for a while then I travelled. I did my OE on and off for about five years. During that time, being involved in the sport was a way to meet people and make friends fast. I really immersed myself in the different cities across Europe. Everything revolved around that sport and keeping fit.

NZF: Did you train overseas?

RE: For a while yes. Initially when I left I spent some time in Europe and trained quite intensely in a gym in Brussels for about a year. That’s how I made friends and everything revolved again around the gym there. I fought regularly over there and then coming back I trained in Thailand for quite a while. That was my first trip to Thailand and one of many since.

NZF: Did you fight in Thailand?

RE: Yeh..I had one fight in Thailand and I will definitely be going back this year to continue that. I guess it was the training aspect that interested me at first. I got injured quite badly, as you do at times.

NZF: when, where and at what age did you have your first fight?

RE: My first fight was at Lumpini Stadium at Otahuhu, when Lumpini was based out in South Auckland. It was telecast live back to Thailand. The guy who owned the stadium managed to bring both stadium champs over, which was rarely seen even in Thailand, and it was when I was 17. I fought the New Zealand Champ. I had done four classes and I did alright actually, I broke his nose first round. Then in the second round I ran out of gas, and got killed. And I guess getting beaten up by a little Thai Guy was why....that hiding kept me motivated to change and learn more and keep going.

NZF: As a first fighter at 17, how did you feel?

RE: It was OK. I remember my trainer saying “At least you’ve got heart” (Laughing). Cause that’s the hardest thing to improve on. I was pretty sore. I had a broken nose and bruised ribs. It was a good hiding. But hey, I was back in the gym a few days later. I fought two weeks later after that and another three weeks after that, so I think I had about four fights in the first six weeks. Apparently I was a sucker for punishment (laughing).

NZF: What is your current fight record?

RE: I have had about 32 fights and about six losses I think.

NZF: Down to training. What is your pre-fight training routine?

RE: It’s a bit like studying for exams...cramming...(laughing)...

NZF: When does it start?

RE: Different fights, I will dedicate different amounts of time to training. When I was training for my fight in Hong Kong, I trained as hard as I could for about eight weeks. I think I may have over-did-it. We used to do fitness tests and I remember the crew that was going, I was probably the fittest of the lot. But then it didn’t necessarily help me in the fight. In the fight I completely choked. Actually, after that fight, I didn’t fight for about five years I was so disappointed with the amount of effort that I had put in, cause you know you realise it is such a mental game. It took me a while to realise that your mental strength is so important. So now that I think that I’ve got it mentally...(laughing)....I train for about a week...(laughing)...just, so about five weeks out I like to be full steam ahead. A lot of people like to peak a few weeks prior, then ride it out. I just keep going right up until the fight. It depends on how the body is feeling. As the fight comes on I feel I have more energy and I find it hard to sit still.

NZF: How many hours are you training?

RE: Leading in to two weeks up to the fight I will be training two or three times a day. I will do a morning session, then run mid day then do an evening session.

NZF: You talked about reaching a mental level. To get to that point, what does it take?

RE: I guess it is about knowing why you are fighting. Maybe in the earlier days you may be fighting for other people or for your reputation, or you allow that pressure to really get to you. I think once you really start to fight for yourself, and wanting to test are basically there for yourself, which is what you need to be. I think that’s why you should be fighting. I don’t think there is anything to prove except the challenge for yourself. I think that took me a while to get over. I think mentally when you are asking people as a trainer to go in there and let all this go, there comes a time when you have to practice what you preach. Also it is interesting, as I think that is the biggest barrier for a fighter, it’s the mental game. You can’t really say just get over it, you have to really work it out and know yourself.

NZF: Do you have any pre-fight diet?

RE: When you’ve been involved in the sport for so long I think you just make the good habits things you just do naturally. I eat really well. I don’t like to strip weight for the fights. I find that terrible, I can’t handle the stomach pains. So, I try not to cut weight, and just fight where I am.

NZF: Any career highlights you can think of?

RE: The last couple of fights I have enjoyed. Just because they have been fun. Definitely when I was younger, some of the fights I had in some of the places around the world. Places you never thought you’d end up with people you didn’t know. Once I fought in Glasgow years ago, 96 or 97 I think, I couldn’t even understand the corner man. The accent and all that. But it was a really good fight, and just those odd occasions. Brussels definitely and again that time in Glasgow were highlights.

NZF: Who did you fight?

RE: In Glasgow I fought the Scottish Camp and then the Belgium Champ once in Brussels. And I guess that maybe I had really good fights because I was so far away and nobody really knew me, there was no pressure. In the earlier days, I really let that pressure get to me. Which is does for some.

NZF: Any tips for how you fight a taller fighter?

RE: Well I guess it helps when you are short and everyone else is taller than you technique wise, I suppose, a lot of overhand punches, and counter fighting. I like to make a taller fighter miss, as they are usually a little bit slower, so you try to take advantage of that. I find body shots definitely, cause they have a longer body and it is sits right in front of you, and left hooks. But again, I think counter-fighting a taller fighter is the way to go.

NZF: As a father, fighter and husband, how does being a fighter impact on your life and how do you cope with it?

RE: Juggling, which I am getting much better at. It gets much harder, and I guess the other thing too is time becomes so much more precious. So when you are training, you are training dam hard cause you know that time is being taken away from your family. I’m also finding myself getting up a hell of a lot earlier just to fit that training in around family. But I guess making use of that time, the late nights and early mornings is the one.

NZF: Any future goals or aspirations?

RE: I’ve had a few ideas like we have discussed (off records), cause the future of the sport is dependent on how many people are involved. I’ve been trying to get young people involved in the sport and have also been tying in some learnings like life skills and making things like nutrition and dealing with conflict part of the teaching. Possibly getting young people involved in doing an event so it builds confidence, stuff that gives them more than just a sport, but things that give them an outlet for trying those. There a whole lot of things that is around a sport. I guess it’s about attaching the training to those.

NZF: Any advice for the youth or those wishing to get into the ring?

RE: Train hard. I think it is the ultimate challenge. A lot of people see it as dangerous, but really the preparation you do, you are in top shape, you are conditioned and tough. For a man and also a female it is an ultimate challenge. It’s simply getting in there and standing one on one with a man and having to attack. It’s not an aggressive act, it’s very much controlled.

NZF: Hey this is great Roger. Thanks. 

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