HANAPEPE — Brody Melendez, 14, felt nervous stepping into the ring for his first road fight at the Man-up Stand-up kickboxing event in Wai‘anae last weekend.
The crowd was pulling for his opponent, Kapena Fugishige, an experienced hometown fighter from Wai‘anae who came in 20 pounds overweight.
Once he took his first punch, though, the nerves were gone.
“As soon as I got punched I was focused, I was in — I couldn’t hear anything. It was just me and him fighting,” said Melendez.
The fight was ultimately a split decision — decided in favor of Fugishige that coach Sifu Joe Solis said “could have gone either way.”
Waimea Meyer, 14, also got comfortable in the ring after he took his first hit at the Man-up Stand-up fight, from Jonny Shoemaker, another Wai‘anae local.
“Right when I got punched in the face, it was on,” said Meyer. “I just listened to my coaches and kept to the basics.”
Waimea grabbed the win over Shoemaker, who also came in over weight.
Both fighters took home inter-island trophy belts from the competition.
“They did very well in a very hostile crowd. They fought two experienced kids,” said Solis. “They won humble, they lost humble. Everything they did was a good representation of the kids in Kaua‘i.”
Meyer and Melendez, from Kalaheo and Hanapepe respectively, began their training at Hawaiian Fighting Arts in Hanapepe.
“I found this gym and ever since I just loved it,” said Meyer. “In other sports it’s about a team, but when you’re boxing you can depend on yourself.”
The pair, who attend Waimea Canyon Middle School together, have opposing styles.
Melendez likes to get close to his opponents and work them on the inside, while the taller Meyer fights from a distance. The pair frequently spar together to hone their skills.
“With this guy, I have to stay in my range because he’ll get inside and work me,” said Meyer.
The trip to O‘ahu was sponsored by Espresso & Juice in Port Allen and local clothing brand Ainofea.
Hawaiian Fighting Arts, which serves about 30 kids, will soon be launching a fundraising effort to buy new mats for the gym and to help pay travel costs for future events.
Fighters from the gym will travel to another kickboxing event on Hawai‘i Island in August.
Meanwhile, older Hawaiian Fighting Arts boxers C.J. and Nohili Kahepu‘u, who helped train the younger fighters, will fight in an amateur bout with Trinity Kings on O‘ahu June 10.
This will be the final amateur fight for the pair, who plan on going pro after the event.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island