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Meet the world kickboxing champ fighting to improve truckies’ health

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Versatile truckie Hiriwa ‘Teeman’ TeRangi has been a world class professional super  heavyweight kickboxer and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter as well as a professional boxer.

He was world champion kickboxer in 1997 and fought on the K1 kickboxing circuit and also won three MMA titles in his native New Zealand.

“Honestly it’s the most fun thing to do and in training you are really close to everybody like family. MMA is a sport for everybody and its popularity has really boomed in the last few years with people of all ages young and old because of the UFC, Eternal and XFC fight shows on television,” Teeman said.

Big Rigs met up with Teeman, who prefers to go by his nickname, at a rest area in Guthalungra, which is 40km north of Bowen on the Bruce Highway.

Teeman was driving a Mercedes Benz truck for Griffcorp, which is based in Narangba, and had stopped for a call of nature at the excellent rest area across from the Guthalungra Roadhouse.

Teeman won many martial arts titles in a long career.

“I am heading for Cairns with a load for Bunnings and am awaiting news of a backload,” he said.

Superfit TeeMan has also driven quad and super quad road trains at Port Hedland in WA, but that came to end when the Covid-19 pandemic started.

With more than 40 years combined as a martial arts and fitness trainer, Teeman is now ready to set up a Gold Coast clinic to help other drivers to get fit.

“Driving is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs and you have to be switched on every second you’re driving behind the wheel,” he said.

“One mistake could be your last. There is no time for distractions and you must be  100 per cent focused on your job. And what comes with the job is bad health.

“You are driving all day all night and mainly it’s all takeaways and sweet drinks.

“You just put on too much unhealthy weight and before long, it’s too late,  I want to eliminate this and get them drivers moving again.”

Teeman became a professional kickboxer in 1992 against an Australian Commonwealth Champion in Sydney and has had over 122 kickboxing and Muay Thai fights. He is also a multiple New Zealand heavyweight champion cage fighter as well.

“I had fun out there doing what I did. It’s the only place you can go to really hit someone with your knee, head, kicks or elbow and really hurt them instead of hitting some innocent guy minding his own business,” said Teeman.

“They are cowards. It’s funny our sport. We train so hard to hurt somebody and come in physically and mentally prepared for it. Then if they or I get hurt we always rush over to make sure they are okay.

“It’s the natural rush I love. Just like driving something so huge as a truck. It’s a natural rush. I’m like a pilot flying a plane. I’m in this huge beast and in in the cockpit with full control. I love it. Everyday is never the same. I get to see the best sunrises and sunsets in different locations around Oz. I get to see so much wildlife in their natural habitat from kangaroos, koalas, fox moose, cows and camels in WA.”

The versatile Teeman is also a Zen Do Kai instructor.

Teeman also had a stint as a professional boxer having had 13 bouts.

He told me one of his pro bouts had been against former NRL rugby league star John Hopoate in Townsville. Then the penny dropped.

Coincidentally I had covered that fight which was way back on February 24, 2007, at the Townsville Rugby Union grounds.

When I got home I checked my records and found my fight report which appeared in several national publications.

“Hopoate kept his winning run intact in the heavyweight professional ranks winning his fifth bout when he beat his New Zealand opponent Hiriwa TeRangi in a brutal contest. Referee Chris Condon stopped the bout in the fifth round and the New Zealander TeRangi had a blood splattered face. Before the bout, TeRangi said he was confident he could cause an upset against his high profile opponent,” the report read.

Before entering the ring Teeman told me in the dressing room: “I am very tough and know he will try and take me apart early and if I can withstand the early onslaught I may be able to win.”

Teeman, left, lands a shot before losing a brutal bout with Hopoate in Townsville.

Despite a courageous effort, Hopoate poured on the pressure and had Teeman at his mercy when referee Chris Condon stopped the fight.

Teeman also fought renowned heavyweight boxer Bob Mirovic in 2004. “It’s weird boxing and that’s why I lost them all, but I fought the best Australia could offer me,” he said.

A proud Southlander (Southland is the southern most province in New Zealand), where he also once worked as a sports journalist, Teeman moved permanently to Australia from Invercargill eight years ago after going back and forth across the ditch since 93.

“I am really serious about setting up a clinic on the Gold Coast where truckies can touch base with me to improve their fitness and health,” said Teeman, one of the most interesting truckies I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing.

“They may live locally, or be passing through. One thing is for certain, you will always get a hello back.”

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