Andre Meunier

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International Kickboxer Magazine, Nov/Dec 2014

Andre Meunier is a ‘can do’ sort of fighter.

“I had been training with Keith Ellis at the time [in boxing], but was having a layoff. I ran into James Roesler, head-trainer of Ultimate Kickboxing in Hopper’s Crossing down the local shops.

“He’d just opened his own school, and invited me down to hit the bags and do some sparring. After a few weeks, he asked me if I wanted a kickboxing fight.

‘What do I have to do?’ I asked.

‘Kick and punch; you’ll be right,” he said.

I said, ‘Sweet.’

Since then, Meunier has had thirty kickboxing fights, six pro boxing, a slew of amateur boxing fights and a foray into MMA. He is Victoria’s number one heavyweight and has developed a reputation as an entertaining fighter based on his willingness to take on anyone, anywhere, any time.

This attitude has snagged him a spot on a big promotion in Japan alongside some of the biggest names in the sport, including Sakmongkol and Peter Aerts.

“I’ve been training at the WKO in Pattaya, In Thailand; Sifu McInnes’ school. McInnes is putting this show on. He knew I wanted a fight in Japan; it’s a bit of a dream for all fighters, I suppose.

“I’d said to him I wanted to do it; I didn’t care who. Just tell me where to be and what time. Next minute, I was offered to fight. Representing Australia is a big thing.”

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Meunier’s opponent is a fighter well-known to Japanese kickboxing fans – K1 stalwart, German Chalid ‘Die Faust’ Arrab. Andre is not intimidated, however.

“He’s good; he’s fought everyone. I’ve watched him twice, and that’s enough. I tend to fight my game, not focus on them. I look at their strengths a bit, but they might have changed their style since then. I’ll go in my way, suss out the first round, and if it doesn’t work, then I’ll try and bash him.”

“Nick Kara will corner me, and some of the other boys from WKO. I’ve got friends from Melbourne coming to watch. As long as the crowd are happy, I’ll be happy. Hopefully, I’ll come away with the win.”

Thailand is a popular destination for many fighters working up to big fights, always for similar reasons.

“There’s no distractions. The heat, humidity; the intensity of it is good. You jump out of bed in the morning and by the time you jump off the scooter at the hill to go for your run, you’re already sweaty. After training, you go get a massage after. I get a massage on my legs every day.”

Nick Kara has been training Andre for a long time now, and there’s a strong mutual respect connecting the two. Kara is a former world Thai boxing champion who won his title from the highly respected American, Manson Gibson, in Las Vegas.

Nick is especially well-known to fight fans in recent times as one of the pad holders on The Ultimate Fighter, endearing himself to audiences through his love of practical jokes.

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“Every day at 7am, Nick is there timing me doing my runs, and breaking my balls. I’ve got so much respect for him making the effort, it makes me want to break my balls for him.”

Lumpini legend Sakmongkol is Andre’s pad holder.

“He fights at seventy-odd kilos. He’s had four hundred-plus fights. I really appreciate him taking the time to teach me – I’m not the easiest bloke to teach.”

Andre has fought at international level before, being slated on a K1 Turkey show in 2007.

“That was my seventh fight – my opponent was forty-odd fights into his career. It was a wonderful experience; Turkey is somewhere I never thought I’d go. The promoters didn’t make it easy for me, though – I was flown in two days before the show and still had jet-lag by the time I fought.

“That and the fact I had to sit on the bus for two or three hours between the hotel and the venue and having to wait for six hours until I fought. That said, Turkey was a wonderful place and I was very glad I’d done it.”

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Many of the best kickboxers understand there is a crossover between fighter and entertainer, and Andre effectively works off that basis. His willingness to talk about his past creates the impression of a man whose character matches his appearance.

“I got started in boxing after I got out of gaol,” he says. “I was gaoled for a month for assault. It was alright; I took it on the chin. When you do something like I did – and get caught – you have to do it. I didn’t want to go back into nightclubs; that was just trouble.

“Chris Noble was a really good boxer from Sunshine, and he got me training. I went on to train with Keith [Ellis], brother of Lester. I had some amateur fights. I used to go down on the night, weigh in and my opponents would disappear. I turned pro in order to get opponents.”

Being committed to both disciplines begs the question as to whether he ever gets confused during his fights.

“When I’ve got my boxing boots on, I know I’m not throwing kicks,” he says.

Andre has had six fights for six wins as a professional boxer, although the most high-profile of his opponents backed out in the end, also.

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“I was the first fighter pegged to fight Barry Hall. I was in the Herald Sun and interviewed on SEN [radio].”

While many were critical of Hall’s sudden withdrawal, Andre is more philosophical.

“There was a heap of pressure on him; he was the bad-boy of AFL. There were just as many people that wanted to see him belted as there were people that wanted to see him win. He probably had another think about it and considered what it was going to do for him.

“He’d gotten over the training; gotten over it all. Anyone who’s been in the ring will know, it’s hard to do. I had nothing to lose, and more to gain. He had a lot to lose.”

Andre is generous in his assessment, given that his own attitude is considerably different.

“If I say I’ll fight, I’ll fight. There’s been occasions where I’ve turned up on the night with a couple of broken ribs.”

This attitude goes down well with promoters and fans alike, and that dependability, coupled with a willingness to take on anyone at any time, has seen him fight many of the biggest names in Australia.

“The offer came in to fight Peter Graham on a week’s notice, and we took it. I wasn’t as fit as I could have been, and I was lazy on checking the leg kicks. I gave him a run in the first; I don’t think he knew what he’d come across. I hit him with everything, including the kitchen sink.”

Over the duration of the contest, Peter’s conditioning was too much and the fight ended in Graham’s favour via leg kicks in the third.

The most high-profile of Andre’s kickboxing fights was against Graham’s long-standing nemesis, fellow Australian Paul Slowinski.

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“That was an awesome experience,” says Andre. “The crowd was capacity and the line was around the building to get inside. I’ve got a following in Adelaide and of course, Paul’s the man. I trained hard for it; I tried to protect myself from that high left kick.”

Unfortunately, Andre didn’t get the opportunity to display the extent of his training and Paul’s famous high-kick found its target early in the first.

“I lost fifteen minutes of my life,” he says. “The first thing I remember was standing up in the changing rooms, fully-clothed. Apparently, I’d been talking to people and signing autographs, taking photos, the lot, for some time.”

An alarming story, and one you wouldn’t want to tell your mum. That said, Andre knows he got off lightly.

“I ended up with seven stitches inside my mouth. Paul’s last opponent was also knocked out with that same technique. He ended up with a fractured eye-socket and a broken cheekbone. It could have been worse.”

“I think Kickboxing is harder [than boxing],” he says. “There’s more to worry about; more getting thrown. If you’re not checking, your legs get battered and it’s more draining.

“Boxing is still enjoyable, though. I want to have a few more boxing fights, too; I love the challenge. There’s a difference between the footwork and the stance.”

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When asked to nominate his toughest opponent, Andre is slow to answer.

“When I fought Paul he knocked me straight out and Peter [Graham] was tough, but as far as a good war… I’d have to say Rob Fogarty. I fought him for the WMC Australian Heavyweight title in 2008 under full Thai rules – it was my first fight [under full Thai].

“We bashed each other. He broke both feet and ended up in a wheelchair. He won, but that night, I went out dancing and walked out of the hotel the next day. We still give each other a hard time about that,” says Andre.

Surprisingly, Andre’s sporting background is in basketball, a sport both his teenaged sons excel in.

“I’ve got two sons; Malik, who’s fifteen and Tyrese, who’s twelve. Both of them are really good basketballers; they’re playing at the top schoolboy level. The older one, if he gets bored of basketball, he might try fighting. The younger one, Tyrese, definitely will. He lives and breathes it. They’re coming over to Thailand to train with me in a couple of weeks.”

Watching your own children fight is a notoriously difficult undertaking for any parent, possibly more difficult for a parent that has spent time in the ring themselves.

“When it comes time, I’ll back ‘em,” says Andre. “I don’t know how I’ll feel about it, but I’ll make sure they have everything they need so they don’t get hurt and can enjoy it as much as they can.”

Fighting is high on the agenda of many young men and brings with it the shadow of responsibility. As the father of two teenaged boys, this isn’t lost on Andre.

“A kid at my [older] son’s school was hit recently and went into a coma. It affected him and as a result, it affected me. I want to try and help out with that ‘One Punch’ campaign. I want to try and make a difference.”

Andre hasn’t forgotten anyone that has helped him on his path. Before finishing the interview, he’s sure to mention his sponsors.

“I have to thank Virus Performance Sportswear. Their gear really helps me out with training and recovery. Hart and Huntington, which is tattoo lifestyle wear. Rockwell Watches; also, Platinum Gym out of Hopper’s Crossing where I do all my strength and conditioning. Jetport parking are awesome. And,” he says with a wry grin, “I’m always looking for anyone else!”

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