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Meet the 16-year-old kicking his way to Italy

While many members of Dante Rodrigues’ famous family have made their mark on the football field, the year 11 student from Darwin is kicking his own goals in the kickboxing ring.

Rodrigues, 16 who is of Tiwi Island descent, has been selected in the Australian kickboxing team to compete at the World Kickboxing Championships in Italy next month.

His uncle is AFL player Willie Rioli, a West Coast Eagles star, and his two grandfathers are Benny Vigona who played for WA Football League team South Fremantle in the ‘80s and Tony Vigona who was drafted to the Sydney Swans.

Tony and Benny Vigona are the two brothers of Dante’s grandmother Marggie Vigona.

But while football runs in his blood, Rodrigues followed his father’s family into kickboxing — he had his first competition bout at age 12 and has been fighting professionally since he was 14.

His climb to the top has taken years of dedication. In preparation for the world championships he trains six to seven hours a day — and goes to school.

“I wake up at four o’clock and hit the gym before school and then after school I train again,” Rodrigues said.

Rodrigues trains at his father Astro Rodrigues’ gym Lukphinong Muaythai in Howard Springs.

He said his height and his abilities as an all-round fighter help him in the ring.

“I’m a good fighter when I keep my distance and I’m also a good fighter when I come in close so there’s not much my opponents can do that I don’t know how to fight,” Rodrigues said.

“I’ve got an advantage because of my height — I’m six foot five.”

He says competition kickboxing is one of the toughest disciplines there is.

“It’s very tough,” he said. “You’ll be tired. You hurt. You can’t show you hurt. Sometimes you’ll get cut. You just have to keep pushing through.”

As Rodrigues prepares to face the world’s best in the biggest challenge of his career so far, he is fundraising to help cover the cost of his trip.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to raise $15,000 and can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/help-get-dante-to-italy.

Wendy Caccetta

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