23 May 2021

Fighter who was punched from behind dies in hospital

3:22 pm on 23 May 2021

A young Tongan fighter who was left critically injured after he was punched from behind in central Auckland last weekend has died.

Fau Vake

Fau Vake Photo: Instagram / Fau Vake

Twenty-five-year-old Liufau Tu'iha'angana Vake, known as Fau Vake, was left in a coma after being punched from behind in Symonds Street during the early hours of last Sunday morning.

Fau Vake

Fau Vake Photo: Supplied

A statement from City Kickboxing - where Vake trained with UFC champion Israel Adesanya - confirmed that Vake had died this morning.

"It is with inexplicable sadness almost seven days to the hour after his hospital admission, Fau's fight to find his way back to us ended.

"At this tragic time, the Vake family and City Kickboxing ask for time to grieve and reflect on the loss of Fau, a father, a son and a much loved brother to us all.

"We will speak when the time is right to ensure Fau's loss is not forgotten, but for now please respect our privacy."

Four people have been charged by the police over the incident and have already appeared in the Auckland District Court. Further charges are likely.

Police said they are not seeking anyone else in relation to the investigation, but would still like to hear from anyone that witnessed the incident on Symonds Street on 16 May at about 2.55am.

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

Combat sports commentator Mike Angove, who is also a coach at the gym, spoke this morning for Fau Vake's family.

"It's been an incredibly long week, he's fought the entire distance, he's such a fighter that he was and then finally his heart, which made him such a special fighter, has given out and we are just incredibly sad."

"There aren't words to describe how we feel. It's not really how I feel, how his family feels, how his brother feels, how his orphaned daughter feels. There are no words that can describe that other than inexplicable sadness and a real sense of loss," he said.

Angove said Vake was not only a talented and inspiring fighter, but also someone who always gave to his family and gym.

"In fact, we had him earmarked for great things for the future, but he was more than that. He was a father. He was someone who is always smiling around the gym. He was someone who would turn up and do a job as a sparky for someone and not charge them or take them a for a training session and not charge them," he said.

"He was someone who would always give whether it's to his gym family or to his own family, to his mum, so that's the man we remember beyond just a simple media label that can get slapped on that he's an MMA fighter. People aren't one-dimensional characters and he was a multifaceted character who had so much to offer."

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