The referee raises the hand of Saili Fiso, of Hastings Giants Boxing Academy, after he claimed a split-decision victory over a disenchanted Henry Tyrell. Photo / Duncan Brown Photography
HASTINGS, NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand and Samoa shared the spoils during the inaugural Pacific Giants Nations Cup – an amateur boxing promotion in Hastings last Saturday.
The event fielded in conjunction with trainer/owner of Hastings Giants Boxing Academy, Craig McDougall, and the Hawke’s Bay Youth Trust at the Hastings Sports Centre ended in a three all draw.
But McDougall emphasized the event wasn’t so much about the winning and losing of the silverware as it was about fostering and sharing relationships between Kiwi boxers and overseas opponents.
After the competition, the boxers spend three days in camp spending time learning and developing from each other and the Samoa boxers intend visiting schools in Hastings where Pacific Islanders are in bigger numbers.
The New Zealand v Samoa series, which followed six other fights on the card, didn’t require much interpretation for fans in distinguishing the visitors from the Marist Boxing gym in Apia who were guaranteed the blue corner.
Amid much fanfare, hometown favourite Saili Fiso traded blows with Henry Tyrell, of Samoa, from the opening bell of the 3×3-minute, 75kg elite division feature bout.
The 27-year-old pair exchanged flurries in the first round when the referee cautioned Fiso for holding as Tyrell, boasting Commonwealth Games pedigree, slipped to the canvas.
However, the Hastings barber, of Samoan heritage but born in Auckland, made his intentions clear midway in the second round when he had the crowd in ruptures. He had pinned Tyrell to the ropes.
The visiting Samoan, keeled over at the end of the round, was spent but the bell had saved him although it seemed the referee had given the bloke in the blue corner a bit of a breather when he separated Fiso.
Tyrell showed his class when he came out in the third round looking remarkably refreshed and Fiso sucked in a few big ones as the pair landed wicked blows.
However, the judges awarded a split decision to Fiso who has been trying to master the art of ring craft under the tutelage of McDougall in not going out too hard against seasoned campaigners in the hunt of a knockout at an elite level.
Tyrell shrugged his shoulders in disapproval of the decision during the ring announcement and didn’t come out from the changing room for a request to talk to the media.
Fiso agreed he had made his charge too early but didn’t feel he got carried away because of the vociferous support of the crowd.
“I think I pushed too early so I tried to come back a bit more relaxed [in the third round] trying to tag him to sort of slowly break him down instead of that big rush.
“It was my toughest fight so far and he was a really good opponent,” he said.
“This one was really like a chess match where I had think so it was a good experience and big ups to Henry Tyrell for giving me the experience,” Fiso said, revealing the blokes from his parents’ country of birth were tough as nails.
Host member Hadley McDougall and Darius Poulava got things rolling in the 3×1.5-minute 45kg cadet division.
McDougall, 12, gave as good as he got but Poulava claimed a split decision.
Senoa Hall had too much gunpowder in the keg for Shirahn Lee, of Ruahapia, to win by a standing count in the first round of the 60kg youth grade.
Hall rained a flurry of punches on Lee who often found himself backpedalling towards the ropes.
It was a split decision for Samoa in the next 3×3-minute bout when Iosefo Folesi came out with a hiss and roar over Sam Burdett-Clark, of Smiling Tigers Christchurch, but looked spent in the final round as the latter stalked him around the ring to catch a few flush shots with his longer reach in the 64kg elite division.
Parity proved elusive in the 3×2-minute clash between Egelani Taito, of Whanganui, and Vili Moli in the 81kg elite section.
Taito provided a crisp tempo although Moli, perhaps wisely taking on board advice from his minders that he was behind on the scorecard, tried to land a few uppercuts and hooks in the final round but the judges weren’t convinced, returning a unanimous verdict in favour of the red corner.
Eric Tuia took an eight count in the second round before his trainer threw in the towel against a composed Titi Motusaga, of Auckland, in the second round of the 91kg elite division of the 3×3-minute bout.
The penultimate 3×2-minute fight between Chris Siotaliva’a, of Ruahapia, and Michael Seko was scratched after the latter, an Australian-based Samoan pugilist, had injured his shoulder and withdrawn.
Craig McDougall said the feedback was great and there was wonderful support from the Samoan community.
“When Saili was hopping into the ring you could hear how many people support him locally so we’re very excited our community has got behind us.”
He saluted the army of volunteers which teed up the event and helped pack up and clear the venue.
“I don’t think anyone will walk away from here today saying, ‘I’ll never comeback to that’. I think they’ll be excited about when is the next one.”
McDougall said it was the turn of the Giants academy and other Kiwi boxers to reciprocate with a trip to Apia.
“We have got other countries in mind but first we’ll go to Samoa in early March or later in the year.”
He said the name of the cup was chosen specifically to enable any South Pacific country to compete against a Kiwi contingent.
“We’re really looking at developing a culture of an Oceania region so that we can compete on the international stage and do well.”
Fiso thanked McDougall, the Samoan visitors and academy supporters for a slick exhibition.
* 45 kg – Darious Poulava of Marist Boxing Samoa (Win) VS Hadley McDougal l of Hastings Giants by Split Decision
* 60 kg – Seanoa Hall of Marist Boxing Samoa (Win) VS Shirahn Lee of Ruahapia – NZ 2nd Round KO
* 64 kg – Iosefo Folesi of Marist Boxing Samoa (Win) VS Sam Burdett-Clark of Smiling Tigers Christchurch by Split Decision
* 81 kg – Egelani Taito of Wanganui – NZ (WIN) VS Vili Moli of Marist Boxing Samoa
* 91 kg Titi Motusaga of Wanganui – NZ (Win) VS Eric Tuia of Marist Boxing Samoa. RSC
Main Bout: 75 kg
Saili Fiso of Hastings Giants – NZ (Win) VS Henry Tyrell of Marist Samoa Boxing. Decision
Overall: Samoa 3 Wins. NZ 3 Wins