Tūhoe Muay Thai Teen to take on the world's best

By Herewini Waikato

Tapiki Rangihau (Tūhoe, Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Hauā) has made the 2022 New Zealand Black Gloves Muay Thai youth team. 

The 13-year old from Ruātoki is keen to represent his whānau, hapū and iwi at the World Muay Thai Youth Competition in Kuala Lumpur in August.

He practices every week at Te Wharekura o Ruātoki gym with around 100 kids and adults who are club members of Te Rangataua o Aotearoa. 

Above: Meet the 13-year old from Ruatoki set to represent his whānau, hapū and iwi at the World Muay Thai Youth Competition in Kuala Lumpur

His coach and uncle, Paora Pitau says Tapiki is continuing a proud Ruātoki sporting tradition.

“We have got Stacey Waaka, we have Ngarohi and Otere Black and we have Hakaraia Wilson. Now we have Tapiki Rangihau in Muay Thai."

Rangihau won the National Youth Muay Thai competition for the U13 age group in Gisborne to qualify for the New Zealand Black Gloves Muay Thai youth team. 

“What is great about it is travelling to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia," said Rangihau.

When he gets in that ring, it’s game time

His mum Hineroimata Mariu is his biggest fan and has followed his progress since he was 8 years old when he started kickboxing. 

She says he prefers to play rugby, league and touch - which he also excels in - if he isn't in the fighting ring and isn't one to laze around playing gadgets all day. 

“He’s a funny guy our boy. He loves to laugh with his friends but when he gets in that ring, it’s game time!"

Pitau will travel to Malaysia with his nephew who he's coached since he first put on his gloves. 

They're both newcomers to Muay Thai but says they're willing to learn along the way.

"With the right training, nothing can stop him at a world championship level. He is mature for his age, he’s fast, accurate, very fit and not afraid.

"He use to do flips and cartwheels all the time as a kid. Now imagine that energy in the ring." 

Hineroimata is proud her son will represent New Zealand but says it's important that he remembers where he comes from. 

"Yes, gold is the goal but more important is his Tūhoetanga, Ngāti Tūwharetoatanga, Ngāti Hauātanga, his reo and his tikanga. That will make him a great fighter."

The whānau are busy fundraising the $20,000 needed to send both Rangihau and Pitau to Kuala Lumpur in August.