Interview with Alex Tui – March 2004
Alex sparred me one night in one of our Christians vs. Loins charity fundrasiers
In 1991, Alex Tui knocked out Kash ‘the Flash’ Gill in the ninth round to become Australia’s first World Kickboxing Champion. Mind you, this amazing feat was almost overshadowed by one of his performances as a boxer. He is one of the few people alive who can truthfully claim to have stopped the great Spike Cheyney!
Alex also excels as a human being. He continues to manage the Mundine Gym in Redfern – putting in the hard yards in what is indisputably one of the toughest environments in this country. This is where I met him.
I began by asking Alex what he remembers as the highlights of his fighting career.Notably, he seems to remember friends he trained with more than he remembers any of his famous knockouts!
Alex: Hmm ...in kickboxing one of the highlights was going to Thailand and training there with the Thais and training in Australia with …
Dave: Sakad Petchindee and Sak Sakon?
Alex: Those two actually fought each other, you know?
Dave: Did they fight each other? I thought they were different weights! I thought Sak Sakon was heavier.
Alex: Well, when we saw them he was heavier but when they were still fighting, Sak Sakon held one title at one of the stadiums and Sakad apparently took it off him – beat him for it- and they ended up friends later on and he ended up being his pad-holder!
Dave: Yeah that’s right. That was when he was out here to fight ‘Sugarfoot’ Cunningham.
Alex: Yeah. But even in Thailand they worked together.
Dave: Now Alex, you’ve had quite an illustrious boxing career too - one of the few men to stop Spike Cheyney!
Alex: Yeah, yeah. It was good!
Dave: I know Spike well too. He still makes excuses about that fight!
Alex: I had good fun at my boxing.
Dave: How many fights did you have - boxing and kickboxing? What was your record, do you remember?
Alex: Um…I don’t know, don’t ask me to remember anything! Roughly I’ve had around seventy altogether – seventy, eighty at the most.
Dave: Boxing and Kickboxing?
Alex: Boxing and Kickboxing yeah…
Dave: Did you ever do any Thai fighting or anything like that? Or just straight boxing and kickboxing?
Alex: I fought with knees but no elbows – not full Thai.
Dave: Here or in Thailand you did that?
Alex: In New Zealand actually.They brought a Thai over there. I had two boxing fights there too.I beat Spike Cheyney and I beat Ernie Artango.I had a very good trainer then had Alan Hedger – an Aboriginal.With him I had some of the best fights I ever had in my boxing career.
Dave: So when did you come to Australia anyway? You're Australia’s first world champion, but you are Tongan. You’re a leader in the aboriginal community but you are Tongan!
Alex: My parents were here. Actually I was born in Brisbane.
Dave: You were born in Brisbane?
Alex: Yeah, I’ve actually lived in Australia longer than I’ve lived in anywhere else. I was born in Brisbane but I grew up in Tonga.And I went to high school in New Zealand, and then I came here to do some studies. And I ended up doing them in the wrong field, well… in the field that my…In another field. I came here to do engineering.
Dave: At Sydney Uni?
Alex: At UTS [University of Technology], but I always had this attraction to getting into some fighting here - doing martial arts!
Dave: So when did you start fighting?
Alex: I had my first ring fights in New Zealand actually, because I did karate while I was in high school and then I met Philip Lam - a Chinese fellow.
Dave: I don’t know him?
Alex: Phillip Lam had this Kung Fu school and he was from Hong Kong and they were into matching Thai’s with Chinese and foreigners there. He came to Auckland and they started this competition called ‘Full Contact’ with knees, elbows, everything - in the YMCA there! Luckily nobody knew how to use it properly at that stage. This is in the 80s, early 80s! I was there from 1980 to ’82.
Dave: So you got into that - into the full-contact no-rules fights!
Alex: Yeah! I had a couple of fights there. When I came to Sydney I was looking for a teacher. I joined Chuck Fei’s gym and I started there.
Dave: Ok, so that was your first time in kickboxing as such?
Alex: No. I had had a kickboxing fight in New Zealand, which I lost.
Dave: What year was that?
Alex: This was in 1980 I think (81 or 80) and then I came here in 82.
Dave: Well you would have only just finished school though, wouldn’t you?
Alex: Ah ... I don’t know about that!
Dave: OK, you’re older than me! Is that right? You got into it very late then.
Alex: Yeah I did. I got into it when I was 21.
Dave: So you had one fight in New Zealand and then you fought here with Chuck Faye?
Alex: I’d had one boxing. The other fights were …
Dave: But then you didn’t start seriously competing till you got to Australia.
Alex: Yeah. When I came to Australia, I think it was in 83 that Bob Jones came back from Melbourne and he wanted to push the kickboxing up here in Sydney. And he approached Chuck Fei, and we were some of the first to start the fight scene going.
Dave: I remember it was just starting out then. Kickboxing was just taking off in the early 80s. So you’re there on the ground level with Chuck Faye and Bob Jones?
Alex: I had a state title fight!
Dave: You’re first fight? Those were the days!
Alex: They wanted to get some titles up.
Dave: Ok. Fair Enough. So that was ‘83 and you were fighting.
Alex: Yeah, with Rick Kulu.I actually went to Chuck Fei because Rick Kulu told me about him. I met him along the way.
Dave: Dear old Rick. He’s a nice man. He was a talented fighter with a big heart.