Drinking and bar-brawling were wreaking havoc on his life, so Nick Tower turned to Khmer kickboxing to channel his energies more positively
It's kept me focused, disciplined, determined and has given me purpose.
FOR Nick Tower and Joshua Lee, last Saturday’s kickboxing match at CTN Stadium was a knockout finish – in more ways than one.
Lee, a filmmaker from Western Australia, said he had mixed emotions about the culmination to his new documentary, the aptly named Nick’s Fight.
“It’s sad to have this part of the journey end, but in the same respect I’m excited to finally see both our goals realised,” he said.
The film’s central character, Lee’s younger half-brother Nick, competed in the Khmer kickboxing fight against Cambodian opponent Phearom Meas – and won.
But as Lee points out, the film is really about Tower’s personal fight to find direction and meaning in his life.
With brotherly caution and affection, Lee described Tower as a complex character.
“He is a fun, caring and thoughtful guy – however, he has a destructive side, which makes him so interesting to me as a filmmaker,” Lee said.
“Drinking and a volatile nature have put Nick in regretful situations throughout his life, but through kickboxing he has been able to channel those energies into a positive form.”
Tower agreed, crediting kickboxing with helping him break a negative cycle of drinking and stagnation.
“It’s kept me focused, disciplined, determined and has given me purpose,” he said.
“It’s also kept me from drinking regularly, which is something I no longer want to do.”
The documentary, which has been in production for more than a year, follows the young Aussie kickboxer Tower as he trains intensively over several months in Thailand and Cambodia.
Lee said filming a sibling was not without its difficulties.
“This has been the most confronting part of the journey,” he said.
“Nick and I have had at times very strong conflicts, and more than once the film had almost looked to end before the fight in Cambodia.”
But each of the two brothers was dedicated to seeing the project through.
Tower’s first taste of kickboxing came in November 2007, when he trained for three weeks at a camp in Thailand.
The experience culminated in a fight in which Tower emerged victorious – knocking out his opponent in the third round.
In September 2008, with encouragement from Lee, Tower set off to find an authentic Khmer kickboxing experience. Through a Cambodian friend he found trainer Khim Socheat, who Tower said taught him more in a month than he had learnt in a year at home.
“Although his gym is small in comparison, it has all that is required, and with great assistants,” Tower said.
“I was welcomed into the gym, and immediately felt like this was what I was looking for.”
Tower said he chose to fight his second kickboxing match in Cambodia to honour Khim Socheat, who he said had given him the skills base and the passion for the sport.
The Aussie kickboxer had many supporters at the match, with a large group of friends present, along with eight members of his family who travelled from Australia to watch him fight.
Tower entered the ring amid shouts of encouragement from excited fans.
Though his Khmer opponent had won five of his previous 12 fights, Nick almost echoed his previous victory with a knockout. This time he won with a technical knockout in only the second round.
So, was Lee expecting this outcome for his brother, and the finale of his film?
Lee replied with a sentence he has repeated in jest many times: “Nick may have only had one fight in a Thailand stadium, but he’d had about 50 bar fights, so it could have gone either way.”