Defending Champion 'Slick' Vick Mechkov - Photo: Calden Jamieson
Eight of the nation’s top 75kg kickboxers will battle it out for the coveted King in the Ring crown this Friday night when the promotion returns to Porirua’s Te Rauparaha Arena for the first time in more than two years.
The stellar line-up of assembled fighters includes defending champion Vic Mechkov, reigning 72kg champion Blood Diamond, and a number of current kickboxing title holders such as International Kickboxing Federation (IKBF) Middleweight champion Carlos Hicks.
Add into the mix Porirua’s own Rehua Smallman who fights out of Alpha Muay Thai and the night is set for a series of memorable and crowd-pleasing clashes with each fighter seeking to become the last man standing when the dust finally settles.
Mechkov, when asked if being the defending champion added extra pressure, expressed to Newsie that his return to the King in the Ring was, in fact, generating the opposite effect.
“I think more excitement this time round because I know what to expect. I have done it before, so this won’t be any different. The first time round there was a lot of uncertainty as I didn't know what to expect going into the second and third fights.”
The 29-year-old, who trains out of ETK HQ, believes that since winning the tournament in 2016 he has only improved as a fighter.
“I have developed all aspects of my fight game—my sparring, fitness, flexibility, mental strength.”
However, if Mechkov has been sharpening his tools in the interlude between tournaments so too have his rivals, none more so than City Kickboxing’s Blood Diamond.
Blood Diamond -
The two clashed in the semi-finals of the 2016 tournament in a tightly fought contest ending in a split decision win to Mechkov.
A multiple kickboxing title winner, Blood Diamond will be looking to add the 75kg King in the Ring crown to his collection of accolades when the night is over and has stated that the fighter on display this Friday will not be the same as the one from 2016.
“It's going to be a new and improved fighter, but those who are watching will be the judge of that, and as always I want to leave a memorable night for all the old and new fight fans,” he says.
Mechkov is aware of the threat posed by Blood Diamond but is also conscious that with the talent being showcased any one of the eight fighters participating in the tournament is capable of ending his night early.
“Blood has fought in Glory and has had over 50 fights and a slew of titles, so he’ll be tough. But everyone is tough in these tournaments, and you can’t just focus on one fighter. If it happens, it happens, but I’ll be prepared for whoever comes my way.” says Mechkov.
One fighter who will be looking to make a statement is Carlos Hicks. The 27-year-old is brimming with confidence after winning the IKBF middleweight title in March by defeating Englishman Sam Gough and becoming the first Fijian to hold a world kickboxing title.
Carlos ' 'The Flying Fijiian' Hicks - Supplied.
“I think the biggest thing I got from that fight was just believing I'm on another level than most of these guys out here pretending,” Hicks says to Newsie.
“It’s a pretty wicked line-up; I'm not surprised about who's in it. Competition-wise there's no one that really stands out to me in terms of skill, so I'm not worried. It's definitely going to be an amazing night."
It may have been a long time in between drinks for the region’s kickboxing fans, but the wait should prove to be more than worth it when the action heats up on Friday.
"We did it last time down there, and it was awesome,” says Jason Suttie, event founder and promoter.
From the looks of things, it appears that Porirua and the rest of the country are once again in store for another exciting night of kickboxing.
Starting at 7.30pm the tournament will screen live on Sky Sports 3 and will be free to watch for all Sky subscribers.