Professional Masterton fighter Zane "Hybrid" Hopman has made a star return to kickboxing with a main event bout in Porirua against Zack "Fearless" Fatamaka on Saturday night.
The bout took top billing at the Honour 10 showdown held at the New Zealand Kennel Club Events Centre in Porirua. Also featured on the card was a semi-main event fight between Kiwi kickboxer Pearse Sheilds and Australian Ben Mahoney, who had 10 times world champion Muay Thai fighter John Wayne Parr as his cornerman.
Fighting out of the Fortitude Thai Boxing Gymnasium in Masterton, Hopman had in his corner past New Zealand kickboxing champions Bryce Baron and Brendan Varty, and fellow Fortitude fighter Rhys Richards.
"It was great having them all in my corner and was the first time for a long time I was able to have the whole team there."
Kickboxer Zack Fatamaka, fighting out of Grizzly Thai Kickboxing ETK, had been a replacement for an Australian who pulled out of the bout. Hopman was pleased to be matched for the first time with the Auckland fighter, he said, although Fatamaka refused a bout under full Muay Thai rules that allow multiple knee strikes in a clinch and elbow strikes.
Hopman said he suffered a sluggish start to the bout, which featured three three-minute rounds fought under K1 rules. It was his first kickboxing fight since June last year after his decision to focus on boxing in his professional career.
"I had a bit of a slow start, which seems to be something that's plaguing me, but I made a decent comeback off it," he said.
"I did come on stronger with the hands to begin with and I ended up getting caught with a solid right."
Hopman was given a standing eight count after the right hand strike was landed, he said, before he warmed to his rhythm and began striking with knees and kicks off his punches.
"My hands were going well and, as soon as I woke up, I started throwing with a bit more venom and purpose with my punches.
"Then my knees and my kicks started flying off that and that was definitely to my advantage because I had superior height and reach."
The bout ended in a draw and the decision was reasonable, Hopman said, given that K1 rules allow a draw while full Muay Thai rules force judges to name a winner.
"Depending on how you see it before the eight count I was winning the first round -- which it was all down to opinion really -- and then I took the next two rounds convincingly I reckon, so I would have won on points.
"Our fight was the only K1 bout on the night. It would have been a whole other ball game if it was full Thai but that's not to take anything away from Zack, it was a bloody good fight."
Hopman thanked his sponsors including Lone Star, Wai Weight, Kuripuni Sports Bar, Stewart's Electrical, Eastwood Motor Group, Stirling Sport Masterton and CLM, and family and friends who travelled to Porirua to support him.