With two Kiwi boxers in action at the London 2012 Olympic Games, we reflect on the progress being made by New Zealand as it seeks to re-establish itself as one of the world's boxing powers.
A country steeped in tradition, New Zealand has today the potential to recapture the glory days and with some quality talent coming through their ranks, they have the athletes to make an impact in this next Olympic era. For a country with such a small population and with other more popular sports to contend with, New Zealand has always had a love affair with the noblest of disciplines and has played a big part in forging boxing history.
In 1928, Edward 'Ted' Morgan battled past a host of tough opponents to claim the Welterweight gold medal at the Amsterdam Olympic Games to put New Zealand on the boxing map. The most famous Kiwi boxer to compete at the Olympic Games was Super Heavyweight star David Tua who claimed a hard-fought bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games at the age of 19. The main focus now is to build on the improvements that have been made of late in order to get boxers onto the podium at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Kiwi boxers competed at every AIBA event during the London Olympic era, increasing the experience of all their boxers in the process, but it was their participation at the 2011 AIBA Junior World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, that was the most pleasing as it was the very first time that they had boxers present at that event. At the first edition of the AIBA Women's Youth and Junior World Boxing Championships last year, New Zealand secured a valuable silver medal in the junior competition to further illustrate the progress being made in rejuvenating the sport.
At the London 2012 Olympics, two of their finest pugilists took to the ring in the women's draw with Lightweight (60kg) No.1 Alexis Pritchard winning her first contest as she advanced to the quarter-finals. Unfortunately in the last eight she faced Russia's Sofya Ochigava who was too good on the night. Pritchard was proud of her achievement, losing to the eventual silver medallist was something she said she would never forget. Siona Fernandes, who competed at Flyweight (51kg), was valiant in her first round defeat at the Games.
Today, the focus is all on the future, with their 110th edition of the New Zealand National Boxing Championships seeing a record number of boxers participating in Auckland. Earlier this month, 170 boxers competed from 650 nationally registered elite athletes. The first edition of the national event was held in 1902, making it one of the very first national championships in the world.
Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Joseph Parker did not qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Oceania Champion Joseph Blackbourne have followed him by moving on to begin his professional career, paving the way for a new generation to make their mark.
New Zealand's new Super Heavyweight (91+kg) hope is 17-year-old Papakura High rugby player Patrick Mailata who claimed his first national title in Auckland. The native talent was unlucky to be on the losing side against Joseph Parker in February but has since continued his development and is now ready to impress at the upcoming AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships Yerevan 2012.
20-year-old AIBA Oceania Olympic Qualifying Event silver medallist Chad Milnes won the national title at Welterweight (69kg) and is one to look out for in the Rio 2016 Olympic era. 17-year-old Shannon McSkimming claimed his first elite title at Bantamweight (56kg) while AIBA Junior World Championships competitor David Nyika and Jason Parker have also very bright future.
The country has a proud history in sports and boxing has always been held in high esteem in New Zealand, the next four years will surely see Kiwis getting back on many podiums with the amount of talent coming through.
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