Renewed calls for 'coward's punch' law change after Tongan fighter assaulted in central Auckland

Those who throw 'coward punches' must face tougher penalties, martial arts community members say, after a young Tongan fighter was left critically injured by an assault in central Auckland.

Twenty-five year-old Fau Vake, is a fighter at City Kickboxing, is in a coma after being punched from behind in Symonds Street during the early hours of Sunday morning.

Vake is one of the main training partners of UFC champion Israel Adesanya, who is leading the call for tougher laws for such attacks.

Four people have been charged by the police in relation to the incident.

City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman told Morning Report the law needs to change.

"We have to [have tougher penalties]. This is this going to keep reoccurring if we're not disincentivising people to do this [and] it's going be something that we're going to be dealing with for long time, until something's done about it," he said.

"We can't fathom why in 2018, the bill didn't make it past this reading to basically bring our laws in line with the ones that are currently in Australia. We can't really fathom that, and it needs to be revisited because there's many cases documented of this happening. It keeps reoccurring, and there's just not disincentivisation for people to not do this."

Adesanya himself suffered a broken jaw after he was hit from behind in 2012, and Bareman expects the fighter to stay on the issue until changes are made.

"Israel's adamant that this is something that he needs to advocate for, that this needs to be stopped. That was seven years ago that he was the victim of this, and there's been multiple reoccurring incidents ultimately leading up to one of his very close friends and training partners falling victim to the same thing.

"There needs to be harsher penalties to match the harshness of the crime."

Vake's friends and family are rallying to support him, with prayers and messages of support both locally and overseas.

His uncle-in-law Veili Pāongo said his nephew is "a rising star" in his boxing field, and members of the UFC Tongan mixed martial art fight community were at the hospital, including coach Lolo Heimuli.

Bareman said Vake is an up-and-comer with the potential to make the UFC.

"He had only just turned professional a month ago and had his first professional fight, which he was victorious in.

"Israel sparred around with this young man [Saturday morning] and he beat us on that last round... he was definitely a future prospect, and probably one that eventually was going to make his way into the same organisation as Israel.

"We're a very tight, a very family- oriented gym, and we've got a lot of people that are affected by this, for sure. I'm devastated because we're hoping for nothing short of an absolute miracle."


Photo file Caption: Fau Vake