Boxing champions throughout time

By: Blogger

Four Tauranga Boxing Club fighters are in their final phases of preparation for the postponed 2021 Boxing New Zealand National Championships.

The championships are to be held in Wanganui from April 20 to April 23.

Defending Women’s 69kg champion Arianne Nicholson and Junior Heavyweight titleholder Te Kehu Kerr, along with three time age-group champion Hannah Walker and Tauranga Boxing Club new recruit Rini Porter, will represent the Bay of Plenty Boxing Association in Wanganui.

The Boxing New Zealand showcase has a long and sometimes colourful history since the first championships were staged in Christchurch in 1902.

The proliferation of eight separate categories from cadets, junior and youth through to senior open competition, contrasts with the first championships of just four weight divisions contested by a mere handful of competitors.

Tauranga has hosted the BNZ showcase on just a solitary occasion, when the National Championships came to town 31 years ago during September 1991.

Sideline Sid didn't truly appreciate the Tauranga 'Class of 91' until recently flicking through the results.

The past and future achievements of the senior male champions (women's boxing didn't debut until 1997) saw two Olympic medals and four Commonwealth Games bronze medals, earned by the 10 senior titleholders.

It is sometimes hard to appreciate the 1991 heavyweight champion David Tua’s amateur achievements, which were overshadowed by his glittering professional boxing career.

After winning his first heavyweight crown in 1989 at just 16 years of age, he went back to back the following year, banking a trifecta of national gold medals at the 1991 Nationals.

David followed his Tauranga Nationals success with a World Championships bronze medal later in 1991, then earning an Olympic bronze medallion, before turning to the professional ranks in 1992 at just 19 years old.

Tauranga super heavyweight champion Paea Wolfgramm trumped David Tua's Olympic medal, when he won a silver medal at the 1996 Olympic Games, representing Tonga.

There was reflected glory for New Zealand with national coach Chris Kenny in the Tongan fighter’s corner.

Light-welter winner Trevor Shailer wrote another chapter in his illustrious amateur career in the QE2 Youth Centre ring, with the second of his seven national crowns.

Four Jameson Belts (most scientific) testify to his outstanding performances in boxing combat, with his pinnacle achievement being a berth in the New Zealand team at the 1992 Olympics.

Four Commonwealth Games bronze medals were won by the 1991 National champions in featherweight winner Johnny Wallace, Trevor Shailer, light middleweight Sililo Figota who represented Samoa and light heavyweight Nigel Anderson.

In addition, middleweight Sam Leuii and welterweight Nuka Wood boxed at the Commonwealth Games.

The two other 1991 championship senior title winners had their day in the sun in Tauranga, taking home the two most prestigious special trophies awarded at the National championships.

Bantamweight Gary Jago won the big prize of the Jameson Belt, while hometown hero Daryll Leabourn, who won gold in the Lightweight division, was awarded the Bill O'Connor Cup, which is given to the youngest senior titleholder.

As to whether Tauranga will host the BNZ National Championships in the foreseeable future, Sideline Sid considers it unlikely as the city isn't a fight town like Rotorua, where there is a proliferation of gyms to provide the necessary manpower.


Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian