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‘Best of the Best’

MARTIAL ARTS

THIS East Coast cowboy packs a punch.

Kickboxer Sam Parkes — born and raised in Uawa, and proud of it — flashed both fists and feet on Saturday night at the Waihi Events Centre to win the “Best of the Best” contest as New Zealand under-80-kilogram division champion, and $5000 in prize money.

The 26-year-old self-employed builder, a member since 2014 of Rangataua o Aotearoa (ROA), won this his first invitation tournament against staunch opposition.

The Best of the Best featured the eight highest-ranked competitors in the division nationally, in a win-to-advance format over three three-minute rounds. Parkes won three bouts to become champion.

He beat Johannes Van Duin of Evolution Muay Thai, Papamoa, on points, then knocked out John Vake (City Kick Boxing of Auckland) with a straight right cross in the first round. Vake, who fought Israel Adesanya in 2013, had an 11-6 professional record in mixed martial arts to 2019.

Parkes's mega-moment came when he beat the tournament favourite, Jesse Morrow-Wilson, of Tihipuke Muay Thai, Hamilton. Parkes's wins against Morrow-Wilson and Van Duin came from unanimous decisions by three judges.

Parkes “blew out the cobwebs” in his first fight and then set to work in earnest with the help of coaches Dan Spears and Taka Mackey. ROA life member Mackey was last year made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Parkes, whose partner and family made the trip to Waihi, has the highest regard for these men.

“In the semifinal, Taka tweaked a few things in my technique,” Parkes said. “I won that via knock-out and in the final we faced Jesse Morrow-Wilson, who was in good form, but Dan and Taka out-thought his corner. I executed our game-plan and we won.”

Parkes is a Meads Cup-winning Ngati Porou East Coast and former Poverty Bay rugby representative. His father Murray also played halfback for the Bay.

“I see myself as representing everyone from Gizzy to Cape Runaway but most of all Uawa, as that's where I'm from and who I am,” Sam Parkes said.

“At first, I fought as pre-season fitness training for rugby but the main influence for me is my hero Jimmy Braithwaite. We used to train in his paddock at Tolaga Bay for three hours at a time. It was a crazy experience but he's had the biggest impact on my fighting style, which is very aggressive and wild at times.

“I like to make an intense start, land some hard punches in the first round to let an opponent feel my power. I also chop his legs and rip body shots until I land the big right hand that normally knocks people out.

“I want to thank everyone that has supported me along the way, especially our team at ROA who have so much confidence in me, my ability — who see things in me that I don't — and a special mention to the entire Mackey family with whom I have a unique relationship. I owe a lot to Melissa and Natalie, who have invested a lot of time in me behind the scenes to get me ready for fights.”

Rangataua o Aoteroa will hold their local fight night, Te Ihi a Tu, at the Showgrounds Park Events Centre on May 15.

Sam Parkes. Picture by Paul Rickard