King in the Ring: Kiwi Michelle Preston eyes boxing world title to cap decorated combat career

Michell Preston in action.
Michell Preston in action. Photo credit: Supplied

Veteran Kiwi combat sports pugilist Michelle Preston will enter her high-stakes clash at King in the Ring this weekend with her sights on rounding out her combat career as a dual-code world champion.

A four-time kickboxing world title holder, 44-year-old Preston came out of retirement last year to take care of some unfinished business - strapping an elusive boxing world championship belt around her waist.

The English-born Aucklander will take on Mexican Maribel Ramirez De Jesus at Eventfinda Stadium on Saturday in a WBA super flyweight world title eliminator, with the winner poised to advance and challange undefeated Argentinian Clara Lescuart.

Preston has twice come up agonisingly short in her quest to become a boxing world champion, dropping unanimous decisions to another Argentinian - Debora Diocinius - back in 2012 and 2016.

Those experiences have left a bitter taste in her mouth, and she's determined to right that wrong before she hangs her gloves up for good - again - and add the ultimate exclamation point to a career that's spanned over 100 fights and 16 years.

"For me, every fight is last chance saloon, and I promised myself I would finish with a boxing world title," Preston said. 

Michelle Preston.
Michelle Preston. Photo credit: Supplied

"The WBA as one of the original big three sanctioning bodies carries huge prestige."

Preston is a heavy hitter both in the boardroom and the ring. By day, she's the co-owner and director of two flourishing recruitment companies.

By night - and early morning - she's a fixture at East Auckland's Elite Thai Kickboxing gym, where she's forged a reputation as one of the most dedicated fighters in the gym.

Somehow she also fits time into that jam-packed schedule to be a mother. Google 'Super Mum' and you'll probably find Preston on page one.

Head trainer Jason Suttie says Preston - aptly nicknamed 'Pressure' - personifies the type of ambition it takes to rise to the top of your craft - both inside and outside the ropes.

"She is tough as nails, trains excruciatingly hard and takes on board advice when she needs to," said Suttie. 

"When all that is done, she packs up her gear and heads home to be a mother and company director. 

"If my male fighters had half her drive, I’d have a gym full of world champions."

Currently riding a three-fight win streak, Preston will ride a wave of momentum into this weekend's bout. She edged Australian Holly McMath via split decision last May, before earning the judge's nod comfortably against Nicila Costello, in the process clinching the vacant WBA Oceania title.

Her most recent win came against Thailand's Phannaluk Kongsang back in September, which set her up for Saturday's blockbuster eliminator.

But she realises she'll need to raise her game to another level yet, if she's to have her hand raised against Mexican champion Ramirez De Jesus. 

"Maribel only narrowly lost to the champion in her last outing by split decision, so this fight  is absolutely the hardest pathway to a world title," Preston noted.

"But winning here will show I am legitimate and ready to topple the champion."