King in the Ring: Oscar Remihana out to make statement in eight-man super middleweight tournament

Oscar Remihana.
Oscar Remihana. Photo credit: Newshub.

King in the Ring hopeful Oz Remihana is predictably unfazed by the prospect of competing under the bright lights of Saturday's iconic kickboxing tournament.

Don't be fooled by his tender 22 years, Remihana will be one of the most experienced fighters in Saturday's eight-man super middleweight joust at Eventfinda Stadium.

The New Plymouth-product has been knocking out adults inside a ring since he was just 16-years-old.

"I started fighting when I was 14-years-old," Remihana tells Newshub. 

"I've had a few fights now so I'm used to it. The nerves are always calm so I'm usually all good there."

The aforementioned knockout, where he finished his opponent with a liver shot at a Knees of Fury card in Hamilton, flicked a switch in his head. 

"I was buzzing after that. That was what got me hooked."

He's been in a relentless - and highly successful - pursuit of that feeling ever since, with 22 knockout finishes from his 29 professional victories, and the man they call 'Oz' has his eyes on three more victims to add to that record this weekend.

As is typical of most Kiwi kids, Remihana's sporting abilities sprouted from his time on the rugby field, where he seemed destined for higher honours starring for the New Plymouth Old boys club.

But rugby was always in direct conflict with fighting, a passion instilled in him by his father, who also competed.

It got to the stage where Remihana's father had to deliver an ultimatum to his son - it's either rugby or fighting. It wasn't a difficult decision, and it's now patently clear he made the right one.

Remihana relocated to Auckland, where he lived and trained full-time at Manurewa's SMAC (South Auckland Martial Arts Centre) gym under Francis Vesetolu, fighting at least once a month. But the grind of such a lifestyle at just 16-years-old took its toll, and Remihana decided to take a hiatus from the sport. 

That break only proved to Remihana how much the sport meant to him, and he was soon back in the gym, reinvigorated and with a renewed focus on his craft. 

"That time away I just really started to miss it. It made me heaps hungrier," he recalls.

And the belts soon started flowing. Remihana has since secured the World Muay Thai Championship and Oceania middleweight titles, as well as the World Kickboxing Association strap, utilising his ultra-aggressive, kick-heavy style to devastating effect.

The next defining opportunity for Remihana arose in a chance to train full-time at Bali MMA, one of Asia's pre-eminent gyms where a host of the world's best ply their trade.

Training under head striking coach, Kiwi Mike Ikilei, Remihana believes he's risen to another level in all aspects of fighting, particularly how he operates outside of the gym environment.

"My game has improved heaps, especially the mental side of fighting. Being around all of the professional fighters and champions. There's great sparring, everyone there is really high level. Just building each other up.

"Seeing how their mindset is and the way they are, what they do. Focusing more about learning my body and nutrition instead of just going hard and grunting it out. Being smarter.

"I love the lifestyle - training, go eat, have a sleep, train again. It just makes everything easy."

Joining the glittering list of King in the Ring champions has always been a primary source of motivation for Remihana, and making a homecoming from island life to pit himself against NZ's best strikers is a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.

Some of Aotearoa's finest first made their mark in the tournament, including the likes of UFC stars Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker, ONE Championship's Alexi Serepisos and a host of others.

"I just remember watching them when I was a kid and all the old champions that have gone on to do big things. It's just something I've always wanted to win. It's been my goal since I started fighting."

Remihana has been widely labelled one of the dark horses of the tournament, which also includes City Kickboxing's Mike 'Blood' Diamond and fellow rising star Arshia Ebadi, who's going up a weight class to try and add the super middleweight title to the welterweight crown he already holds.

That tag suits Remihana just fine. After a false start in March, when the tournament fell victim to COVID-19, he's primed and ready to stamp his mark this weekend.

"I'm not too worried. They'll see on the night anyway.

"Training's been good and I'm feeling mentally and physically prepared. I'm good to go."

It's another step in the road to world champion for Remihana, who has his sights set on a berth in ONE Championship's Super Series, which is fast-accumulating a roster of the world's finest Muay Thai and kickboxing fighters.

'That's the goal at the moment, so I'll hopefully get into that. I just want to be world champion. I'm hungry as."

A far cry from the days when Remihana was training and sparring in the backyard of his New Plymouth home with his dad, watching YouTube videos of his favourite fighters and try to replicate their combinations. 

Of course, his dad will be watching on eagerly come Saturday night.

"Yeah, he's always in my ear," Remihana laughs. "But he's just proud as."