Supreme Fight Night
DIFFERENT paths led two strangers, Kevin Henare and Hone Pirihi, to the same venue, albeit a day apart, in Hastings.
But a common denominator has driven the pair into a fighting arena at the Hastings Sports Centre tonight.
"The Dark Knight" (Henare) and "The Dragon" (Pirihi has tattoos on his forearm and fist to that effect) will drop their tools as machine operators to slip on gloves for 3x 2-minute rounds of modified boxing.
The inaugural Supreme Fight Night is the brainchild of Bay City Dojang owner Camille Pruckmuller, promoting her first mixed event.
Starting at 6pm, the fight night will feature 18 bouts including taekwondo and kick boxing. It has lured fighters from Gisborne, Palmerston North and the Zero Tolerance Gym in Napier.
"We're raising funds for our club to help children go to tournaments overseas," taekwondo instructor Pruckmuller says.
For Henare and Pirihi, grappling with their weight demons took them to the door of Pruckmuller's dojang.
"I came in to talk to Camille about losing a few kilos and he [Henare] came in the next day," Pirihi explains.
Tipping the bathroom scales around the 150kg mark, the 25-year-old McCain's employee was returning from a cholesterol clinic with news he had high blood pressure and other obesity-related issues when the dojang on Queen St caught his eye.
The next day, 22-year-old Henare, a Heinz Wattie's employee, found himself asking Pruckmuller similar questions after a friend, Chris Vaughan, suggested they check out the dojang.
"We decided we'd be fighting each other," Pirihi says.
The pair have been training and sparring with each other for three months.
Henare, who weighs 129kg after shedding 10kg, believes they'll have a close maiden fight.
Pirihi says: "Kevin has faster reflexes but I'm stronger than him, so we're pretty even."
Henare says: "I've had a feel of what it's like to be punched by Hone."
Their demons are different but the residual effect on their bodies is the same.
Henare, who attended schools in Otane and Taranaki while living with mother Cheryl Hita, weighed an imposing 95kg as a primary pupil.
At Stratford High School in Taranaki, he realised his weight was out of control but losing it was an on-going challenge.
"It's been hard. I've tripped up a few times," he says, having given into fast food at Christmas. "I also went to an unveiling of a headstone and I pigged out there, too."
Pirihi's poison was alcohol and smoking marijuana.
"I started doing weeds, so I'd have the munchies," he says, adding he has been off it for seven months.
"A couple of drinks while watching TV is my problem," says the former Hastings Central and Hastings Intermediate pupil.
Unlike Henare, even when Pirihi got to Hastings Boys' High School he wasn't involved in any sports. A couple of years ago, Pirihi had slimmed down to 105kg but, more realistically, the 131kg man wants to be around 115kg.
Mum Tinia Pirihi and father Patrick McNaughton have offered him positive reinforcement to achieve his goal.
It helps that he works seven days a week, especially when it kept him away from overeating during Christmas.
So does working out two hours a day, six to seven days a week, with Pirihi setting up a gym at home, complete with punching bags.