Ricky Esilva with his four Muay Thai kickboxing title belts. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Ricky’s fight to be world’s best


Ricky Esilva is one of the last men you would want to pick a fight with.

However, having worked as a bouncer for several years, many drunken males have made the mistake of trying to take on the New Zealand Muay Thai champ.

Needless to say, the altercations would always end the same way.

Had these men known they were squaring up to a professional fighter, currently holding four New Zealand titles, they may have thought twice before taking a swing.

Ricky has had broken bones, ruptured organs and undergone surgeries as he chases his dream of becoming one of the greatest fighters in the world.

The 21-year-old was recently crowned WKA New Zealand heavyweight champion in Wellington on August 24, after defeating Navajo Stirling in the five round, 95kg bout.

“Tricky Ricky” says, after a slow start to the fight, he found his mark in the later rounds.

“It took me a while to wake up, but I managed to pull through the first two rounds, I got in some good shots in the third. In the fourth we went to a clinch and I started to smash him with elbows, I managed to keep enough pressure on in the fifth to win.”

He won the bout by split decision, two judges awarding all five rounds to Ricky.

It was his fourth title win, after preciously claiming the WKAF, ISKA South Island, and NZMF championships.

South African-born Ricky has always liked to test himself against older opponents. He fought his first fight at 15 against a 19-year-old.

Combat sports are in his blood and he started young, taking up karate at kindergarten.

After moving to New Zealand, Ricky was unable to join a club so played rugby to satisfy his need for combat, but still longed to fight again.

However, it wasn’t long before Ricky discovered the Maui Muay Thai Gym in Nelson

Just eight weeks after joining, Ricky was making his in-ring debut, picking up a win with a second-round knockout. He was hooked.

Ricky undergoes a gruelling training regimen everyday which includes a 5am run and three hours in the gym every night.

While not a street fighter, he has had to use his skills on the street while working as a bouncer.

“I’ve had a lot of drunk guys wanting to fight me,” he says. “I don’t want to hurt them, but if I have to I will.”

Ricky says his dad came from a rough background and he learned how to defend himself.

“He taught me a bit, we used to wrestle a lot with each other,

His current record reads an impressive 22 fights, 18 wins and four losses, with six knockout wins.

This success has come at a cost though as Ricky’s road has been paved with some gruesome injuries, one of which saw him sitting on the sidelines for two years.

Ricky has also add broken foot, fractured his shin, suffered a broken nose, broken ribs, and undergone knee surgeries.

But Ricky has also dished out his share of punishment. His most bloody bout came for the Oceania title where he inflicted a gash requiring 12 stitches to close.

Ricky says elbows are his preferred method of striking and his most powerful weapon.

Despite the injuries, the pain and the hours spent in the gym, Ricky remains clear on his goal.

“I know what I want to be and where I can go and I will not let anything get in my way.”