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Ihaka in with a fighting chance

Masterton’s Michelle Ihaka didn’t know what a boxing combo was at the start of 2023, which makes it all the more astounding that she landed a gold medal in the recent world championships.

Ihaka said she joined Undisputed MMA in March to work on her fitness but got quickly swept up in the fight culture.

“I thought, ‘oh, I wouldn’t mind having a go at that.”

Owner of the club and Ihaka’s soon-to-be coach Emilio Johnson said that if she promised to commit ‘110 per cent’, he would train her for the upcoming World Kickboxing Association [WKA] world championships, taking place three months down the line in Bali.

The other catch was that Ihaka had to pass a fitness test, something she said really tested her.

“I thought I was going to die,” Ihaka said.

“It was really intense and pushed me. We talked about how important mindset is, the way you think and process things.”

After a chat with Johnson about the importance of mindset, Ihaka began a three-month period of intensive training for Bali.

Before this point, she had never done any form of professional fighting or boxing and said she didn’t even know what a combo was.

“I started training six days a week, or seven and just pushed myself. I didn’t know what fights I would be registered for, was just training for whatever was to come,” Ihaka said.

“I sparred with all the boys who have fought before, and fought well.”

Ikaha said the other lads training didn’t ‘hold back’ or treat her any differently.

“I’m so happy the boys trained with me like they did.”

“I had to take punches to be conditioned and was put in something called the shark tank, featuring two-minute kickboxing rounds with the guys, round after round.

“I remember tearing up in that ring and feeling so defeated.”

Ihaka learnt to channel this feeling into drive, and said she also relied on her family for support during the brunt of the training.

“My family were so good, they would say you got this, you can do it.”

Bali arrived quickly, and despite Ihaka holding her ground in her first fight, her opponent gained the better of her by the last round.

It turns out that this opponent had actually been fighting for seven years and was fighting for a professional contract the next day – slightly different from Ihaka, for whom it was her first time in the ring.

Ihaka said she felt better about the defeat and shed some happy tears after finding this out.

“That’s why my coach didn’t tell me,” she laughed.

“He knew I’d do better if I didn’t know. Also, the ref would have stopped it if it looked like I was about to be seriously hurt, he knew I’d be okay.”

For Ihaka’s second fight the next day, she was feeling battered and bruised from the previous day’s ordeal – but gloved up to meet her new opponent.

“I was a bit scared and apprehensive but couldn’t back down now.”

“So we were in the ring, the bell rang, and I just went in.”

By the time the bell sounded, marking the end of the first two-minute round, Ihaka was up by so many points that she was declared the winner of the entire fight.

“I was so happy and proud of myself,” Ihaka said.

“I owe it to the way I was trained and conditioned, all those hard nights of training paid off.”

Now with a silver and gold medal under her belt, Ihaka said she’s enjoying being back in the gym’s Jujitsu classes but is making the most of a lighter training schedule with no other fights around the corner.

“It’s a lot of commitment to sign up to a fight,” she said.

1 COMMENT

  1. Well done meshell we are so proud of you Kia kaha stay strong you’ve got this massive hugs from Daph stretchie and all our families xxx

Comments are closed.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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