Kickboxing: ‘White Sniper’ hopes to win title in homecoming fight

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Two-time world champion Chris “The White Sniper” Johnson is coming home.


Hawke’s Bay kickboxer Johnson, 34, who has been Aussie-based for 10 years, will fight Whanganui’s James Griffiths for a national K1 kickboxing title.


It will be one of the feature bouts at the inaugural Combat Kings New Zealand Rise of the Legends Mixed Martial Arts event in the Hastings Sports Centre on Saturday night.


“I’m looking forward to coming home and competing in front of my family and the home crowd,” Johnson said last night during a breather while training at his Sniper Kickboxing base in Sydney.


Those were the only words Johnson had time to pass on, an indication of how serious he is treating the five-round 85kg-division contest, for which he is coming up a weight division.


Johnson won a World Kickboxing Federation middleweight title as an amateur and another as a professional.


He earned his nickname during his time in the Army. International exponent Mike “The Black Sniper” McDonald was his favourite fighter as a youngster.


This will be the first time Johnson has taken on Griffiths, who boasts more than 10 years’ experience in Thai kickboxing and mixed martial arts.


Before moving to Whanganui this year Griffiths was Waikato-based. He made the move after his mother died of cancer and in an attempt to put his fighting career back on track.


His next outing after taking on Johnson will be a July 26 mixed martial arts fight in Auckland. On August 2 he will make his professional boxing debut in Hamilton.


While the Johnson-Griffiths fight is a kickboxing bout, a variety of combat forms will be on display during the night. Hawke’s Bay’s Leighann Banham will take on Wellingtonian Genitane Lupi in a pro women’s boxing bout and then one of the evening’s highlights: two of the Bay’s better-known fighters, Dan Digby and Pane Haraki, meet in a New Zealand Mixed Martial Arts light-heavy title bout.


The Digby-Haraki bout has been promoted as a classic grappler versus striker contest. Digby is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt who has qualified for this year’s United States Grapplers Quest.


Haraki first got into the mixed martial arts scene as a kickboxer but this year has been on the Professional Boxing Association circuit in Auckland.


Multiple national kickboxing champion Banham will be appearing in her third professional boxing bout but first in her home province a year after returning from a six-year stint in Australia.


Lupi also has a muay thai boxing background.


Banham will dedicate her fight to her former training partner and mother-of-two Sarah Jo Manaena of Paki Paki who was killed in a car crash in March.


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