Samoan amateur boxers in Hastings catalyst for stimulating growth

PHOTO: Alex Coull (left), Kal Walker, Saili Fiso, Taine Murray, Hadley McDougall and Austin McDougall are on the New Zealand v Samoa card in Hastings this month. Photo/Duncan Brown

By: Anendra Singh
Hawke’s Bay Today sports editor

Samoan boxers are embarking on an international amateur enterprise in Hawke’s Bay that hopes to blossom into an annual event to reinforce the value of the code.

“To get an international team to Hawke’s Bay is young but, hey, it says we’re ready to jump on to the map,” says Hastings Giants Boxing Academy owner/trainer Craig McDougall before staging the New Zealand v Samoa promotion at the Hastings Sports Centre on Saturday, November 24.

“The relationship is bigger than just boxing,” says McDougall, stressing the Samoa team will visit Bay schools to conduct training camps.

“We want them to expose the goodness of these young men and what it takes to work hard to achieve good results.”

The Hawke’s Bay Youth Trust and the Giants academy, with the support of Tremains, is hosting the 10-bout event with six match ups against Samoan athletes starting at 4.30pm.

The final and feature bout will be between national No 2 seed Saili Fiso and Samoa No 1 and Gold Coast Commonwealth Games quarter-finalist Henry Tyrell.

Reciprocity is crucial because a Bay contingent hopes to visit Samoa next year.

“We’re hoping to take young men like Saili who have not been to their home land to compete and experience the beautiful place that Samoa is so this will be a long-term relationship which may become an annual event.”

He says the venue can hold more than 1000 people, including fans, boxers and trainers.

“We’re not doing corporate tables. We’re doing ringside so let’s feel a little bit of the sweat in the front row.”

McDougall says it’s very exciting for Bay boxers who have been looking to develop for the past six years as well as the aspiring youth around the country.

It’s also rewarding for the Bay trainers who have persevered for decades to try to preserve the code at an amateur level.

He believes some of the homegrown talent is at Tyrell’s level.

McDougall says this amateur alliance is the beginning of an era to reinforce, with the proposed Millennium Institute of Sports plans in mind at the HB Regional Sports Park in Hastings, that boxing plays a pivotal part in shaping society.

“We want to keep boxing on the map because it’s one of the original codes from the Olympic and Commonwealth Games,” he says.

McDougall says the plan is to host an Australian contingent around April-May next year to continue to grow the international vision.

Hawke’s Bay boxing also will host the national amateur championships in October next year so the Hastings centre will become a dress rehearsal for it.

“It [national championship] brings in good revenue and gives good exposure but it also becomes exciting because we’ll have local boxers on the card.”

Staging events at the Hastings Giants academy three or four times in a year recognises the importance of boxing as a grassroots sport.

“They can go to an elite level but it doesn’t have to be a show that creates a lot of pressure for our young men.”

Craig McDougall says the relationship they will forge with other nations is bigger than just boxing. Photo/file

However, McDougall says it’s an opportune time to recognise the hard work the pugilists invest before they enter the ring, never mind the challenges they face on the canvas.

He says among the Samoa amateurs is an 11-year-old boy. The visitors believe their emerging talent is on track to become the next Joseph Parker or David Tua.

The prospect of fighting Tyrell excites Fiso but he doesn’t know much about his opponent except that he has pedigree.

The 24-year-old Hastings barber is mindful Tyrell will bring a “classic Samoan” approach to the ring with lunges and hooking punches so he has been working on strategies with McDougall to counter that.

“With Samoans, we love to bomb and just throw hooks so he’ll come out firing,” says Fiso, an Auckland-born Samoan who moved to Hastings as a teenager.

For Fiso it’s a case of embracing aspects of “Palagi” boxing that will enhance ring craft.

“You know, thinking more and using your energy more wisely and not just coming out trying to bang,” he says.

Fiso went to Samoa with his family when he was 3 but has no recollection of it so he sees a visit there with the Bay boxers some day as another adventure.

The Samoa line up includes heavyweight Vili Moli, super heavyweight Eric Tuia and 69kg Youth Oceania Championship boxer Marion Ah Tong who won a medal early this year.

Giants academy’s Jett Varcoe will take on newly-crowned 36kg cadet national champion Bronson Saunders, of Central Hawke’s Bay Club.

Taine Murray (Giants) will face national champion Ben Jenkins, of Palmerston North, in the 57kg junior grade.

Kal Walker (Giants) will have a rematch from earlier this year against another Jean-Pierre, of Napier Boxing Club, in the 81kg grade. Jean-Pierre had prevailed 2-1 rounds in April.