NZ Thai Boxers Outclass International Challengers at Phillip Lam Show
In the cavernous space of the ASB Stadium in Auckland, with the spotlight on the smoky entrances of the fighters, it was NZ versus Australia and America in the first international Muay Thai fight of the year. The winners? New Zealand's fighters in every international match up on the sultry Saturday night.
Although every fighter gave it their all, and the fights were nothing but quality, the most highly anticipated bout of the night had to have been Shane "Choppa" Chapman's fight against American Alexander Anoushian. Appearing under the flashing lights, tendrils of smoke clinging to him, wild bursts of applause greeted the four-time world champion as he made a welcome return to the Muay Thai ring after more than two years away.
No rookie in the ring, Anoushian stepped up with 16 professional and five amateur fights under his belt. But it wasn't enough to disrupt the whirling force of nature that is Chapman in full flight, and Anoushian was 'chopped' down in a round one TKO that heralds the return of one of NZ's best Thai boxers.
Hailing from Auckland's City Lee Gar gym, Steve Hahm made his own glamorous return to the professional ring in an explosive international bout against Australian Adam King. A hard fought victory for Hahm in the end, the match began with more than four standing-eight counts delivered to King in the first round before he was able to take stock at the bell and come back strong. A round three standing-eight count hinted at the victory, but it was Hahm's thigh-chopping kicks in round four that brought it all to a close with a TKO decision in that round.
Bringing to bear some thunderous power in the ring, Slava Alexeichik (City Lee Gar Gym) dominated his bout against Australian Tainui Crouch with some booming knees that caught Crouch out in two standing-eight counts in round one. This was enough to discourage the rival fighter, and he wasn't able to make it out for round two: TKO decision, round two.
In a prelude to this NZ victory, the heavyweights of the night came out to throw down for the NZ WMC Heavyweight Title. Antz "Notorious" Nansen (ETK) took on Tony Angelov (Cit Lee Gar) in five rounds of hefty boxing combinations from Nansen, and jarring kicks from Angelov.
Both fighters are champions (Angelov is NZ Champion and Nansen is the WKBF NZ Champion), but at the end of the fight it was Angelov that kicked his way to a new belt, managing to avoid "Notorious" Nansen's savagely precise hands.
Using more than just their hands in the bout, Edwin Sammy (ETK) and Richard Nola (City Lee Gar) gave the generous crowd a great show, as Nola started out kicking hard and sure then Sammy turned it around into an all-out final round of jumping knees, spinning back elbows and more. Looking as though he took a round to warm up, the puncher (Sammy) finally took down the kicker (Nola) in the match with a unanimous decision. For Sammy, it was not just the kudos at stake, the winner of this bout will head to China later this year to represent NZ on the global stage.
For the three talented amateurs that also fought on the night, it was more about the kudos and the experience. And none seemed to fight harder than the Hayden Todd (Strikeforce) and Robert Benamina (South Auckland Lee Gar) - the fighter that recently beat well-known Auckland Thai boxer Richie Hardcore. Numerous big punches, leg-chopping kicks and plenty of confidence eventually won the match for Todd unanimously, but not without a searing challenge from Benamina.
Once again, New Zealand should be proud of the depth of talent, the commitment and the sheer fighting will shown when on the international and national stage.
Benson Eves (91.2kg) [Rebel Lee Gar] WON by R3-TKO vs Mike Mulipola (89.9kg) [Cambodian Kickboxing]
Kevin Xu (85kg) [City Lee Gar] WON by unanimous decision vs Atty Galiga (82.5kg) [Jombing Gym]
Hayden Todd (73.6kg) [Strikeforce] WON by unanimous decision vs Robert Benamina (74.2kg) [Sth Akl Lee Gar]
Edwin Samy (74.4kg) [ETK] WON by unanimous decision vs Richard Nola (75.2kg) [City Lee Gar]
Tony Angelov [City Lee Gar] WON by unanimous decision vs Ants Nansen [ETK]
Slava Alexeichik (79.9kg) [City Lee Gar] WON by R2-TKO vs Tainui Crouch (79kg) [Australia]
Steve Hahm (66.9kg) [City Lee Gar] WON by R4-TKO vs Adam King (67kg) [Australia]
Shane "Choppa" Chapman (84kg) [NZ] WON by R1-TKO vs Alexander Anoushian (81kg) [USA]