Horrocks aiming for international fight career

Rob Horrocks after winning Saturday's 8-man tournament (photos: Calden Jamieson)

Rob Horrocks (18-3, 9KO) has been involved with fight sports for 20 years, first competing as a junior in England.

The 31-year-old moved to New Zealand six years ago, settling eventually in Queenstown, where he now heads the Fight Science Muay Thai team.

Last Saturday, March 27, Horrocks defeated three opponents in one night to win the 68kg King in the Ring title. He defeated his first two opponents by TKO before going to a four-round decision with New Zealand kickboxing veteran Kayne Conlan.

Fight News’ Harry Greenfield asked Rob a few questions following his tournament victory.

Hi Rob. Congrats on the tournament win. Your final bout with Kayne Conlan was one for the ages. Was that the toughest fight you’ve had?

“It was definitely my hardest fight of recent times, yeah. He was smashing my nose, but the rest of my body felt fine.

“He was a really tough fight, you know, but I felt in control. He wasn’t hurting me with the shots, it was just my nose that was real sore.”

What happened with your nose, was it broken?

“Yep. I broke my nose a few weeks ago in training, so I was saying to my corner to be prepared for it to get obliterated, haha. I’ve got two big black eyes like a panda right now.”

Have you had any weird situations in public where people look at you funny because you’ve got a busted-up face?

“Because it was on the TV, a lot of people are like ‘oh my God, congratulations!’ but loads of people are like, crossing the street from me, haha.

“Queenstown is a really nice place, innit, and people are seeing me with two black eyes and being like ‘what the f*ck’, haha.”

It seemed to me that you were willing to stand in the pocket and trust your power. Is that how you see it?

“Yeah, by the time we’d got through to the fourth round, there was a point where I thought that if the judges have scored the last three rounds as a draw, then I’m not doing enough to win right now.

“At that point, I thought I’m gonna try and knock him out. I knew I had enough power to hurt him, because I kept rocking him. I took my foot off the gas a little bit, to recharge and then I went for it, and it worked.”

Regarding the 4th round, have you seen the scorecards? That means that 2 of the judges gave someone a 10-8 round or gave a 10-10.

“Yeah, I don’t understand what happened with that. I would be interested to see who said what.

“I watched it back on the TVNZ app and even Dan Hooker in the commentary was saying that he gave it 2-1 to me. I know the first round was close but I could even argue that it was my round as well.”

How did you see it at the end of 3 rounds, were you confident?

“In the moment, I knew what was happening, man. I knew that Kayne is a huge favourite up in Auckland. So, I went back to my corner and I pulled the stool out to put my foot on and dropped my hands by my sides to just relax and get some air.

“We started preparing for a fourth round straight away, because I left it too close, you know. When they announced it, I was relaxed about it.”

How are your shins after 3 fights in one night?

“They’re a wee bit swollen but not too bad. I kicked a lot less in the first fight. I found it quite easy to get into a boxing range with Jon Anderson and he seemed happy to stay there.

“In the second fight [against Yuri Mamic], I knew I was gonna kick him a bit more to stop him from punching me. I seen him against Doug Higgins, and I thought ‘he’s gonna fly at me and try to punch my head in’ so I just kicked him until I saw a good opening and tried to knock him out, which worked a treat.

“In the final was when my shins got bashed because I was defending against Kayne’s kicks a lot and kicking a bit more myself.”

Was your plan to go all-out for the finishes in the first 2 fights, or is that just how it played out?

“Nah, I wanted to finish them. You don’t get paid for overtime, haha.

“I was staying relaxed, you know. My cornerman Wade, right before I walked out for the second round with Jon Anderson, said ‘don’t try to knock him out with every shot’.

“So, I was trying to setup the knockout shots but I was trying to do it in the most relaxed way possible, letting myself see it and throw it in the moment. I know I’ve got the power.”

I saw your messenger story, out in Auckland clubbing with the belt. Have you recovered from the hangover yet?

“I didn’t go to sleep until last night, haha. I was walking up and down Queen Street eating a kebab with the belt over my shoulder.

“It wasn’t until about 5:30 in the morning that I got back to the hotel. I was in Tony Jaggard’s room with Kayne Conlan and a bunch of other people partying it up.

“Then I had to get a taxi straight to the airport at 7am. Then I got back here [to Queenstown] and it was my Mrs’ birthday on Saturday, so I had to put a good shift in there as well, haha.”

Tell me a bit about starting your own fight gym in Queenstown. What led to the decision, and how did you grow it?

“The gym was here already, and they had a Muay Thai class, but they didn’t have a Muay Thai club.

“When I joined the team, my job was to make it into a fighting team and get it to a national level.”

You’ve got the semi-finals of Apex coming up in 4 weeks’ time. How quickly will you be back in the gym?

“I work in the gym, too; I manage the gym, so I’m sitting in the gym right now. But, I’ll be training tomorrow. I’m pretty much all good.

“This week, I’ll take it easy, just do cardio and probably some shadow-boxing, go swimming and have a low-impact week. Next week, we’re back in fight camp, basically.”

That tournament is at 64kg. Does that mean more of a cut for you?

“I don’t find it too hard to make the weight. Fighting at 68kg for me, I have to basically eat as much as I can to stay above 70kg to then cut down to 68kg.

“I always used to fight at 65kg, that was my most competitive weight. I just have to not have to not have the late-night snacks, which is a bit of a shame, haha.”

What is the ceiling for you? Are you planning to compete internationally if the opportunities arise?

“My goal is to get to the tippedy-top, you know. Last year, before lockdown, I was really focussing on taking fighting seriously again.

“In lockdown, I was trying to get in order in my mind what that actually means to me. My goal is to see at what level I can perform at.

“I was saying to myself that if I can win the King in the Ring, it’s just the start of the next thing for me. I want to see how far I can really go with it.

“By the end of this year, I should have really turned some heads. Winning the 68kg King in the Ring puts me pretty much at the top of 68kg kickboxing and winning the Apex series puts me at the top of 64kg.

“We’ll see where we go from there. Hopefully the borders are open, and I can get some action overseas.”

Who do you think you’ll face in the final of Apex?

“I’d like to fight Ale. I think he’s a really talented fighter and I have a lot of respect for him. I’ve seen a lot of his fights and I think he’s really stylistically good, and I’d love a really pure Muay Thai fight with him.”

I can’t wait to see it. Thanks for the interview Rob.

Rob Horrocks will next compete against Yassin Yass in the semi-final of the Apex Muay Thai Warrior 64kg series on May 1st at Urban Sport Gym in Auckland. The event will be live-streamed on Fight News.