Our Billy puts his best foot forward

STAND BACK: New Plymouth’s Tony Billy is off to fight in a karate tournament in Japan.
STAND BACK: New Plymouth’s Tony Billy is off to fight in a karate tournament in Japan.

There won't be any acting when Tony Billy is centre stage next week.

The New Plymouth actor-stuntman will instead be ducking and diving when he fights in the Japan open karate tournament in Fukuoka.

The 45-year-old black belt is the only Taranaki man in the Kiwi team attending the three-day tournament. He will fight in the men's 35 to 45 years heavyweight division.

"I've only been doing karate about six years, but I've been involved in martial arts since I was eight . . . kung fu, tae kwon do, kickboxing, things like that," Billy said.

Originally from England, Billy lived in Auckland for several years before returning home in 2004 for six years. He returned to New Zealand in 2010, living in Christchurch for a short while before moving to New Plymouth.

"I do a bit of acting and stunt work . . . when I can get work. I finished working on What Now in the middle of the year. I was the Teachinator . . . the old American wrestler-type guy," he said.

"I've also been in a few movies . . . Zena, Hercules the Legendary. And I've done a bit of stunt work in things like What Became of the Broken Hearted and Underbelly. I played the mean-looking guy in Underbelly."

Billy said he hadn't fought competitively for about 15 years.

"I started training with Dean [New Plymouth personal trainer Dean Logan] about 12 months ago. I was about 115kg . . . like 20 months pregnant when I started. I've trimmed up a lot."

Billy said the Kiwi contingent for Japan included eight fighters from Invercargill and a few from Auckland.

"We've also got two instructors going . . . Peter Thompson from Invercargill and a guy from Auckland, Sheehan. That's all you call him. He's yay high - a hard-as-nails man."

Billy said he would probably have five fights.

"Two fights a day. They're over two rounds, two minutes a round. The final, if I get there, will be two, three-minute rounds."

The tournament also involves weaponry and belt gradings.

Logan rates Billy's chances highly.

"He's got a bit of talent. I think he'll go all right. He's where I want him at the moment and he can fight," he said.

"We've really stepped up the training over the last three months."

Taranaki Daily News