Boxers get angles to success

By Peter White

The wall of fame at the Tauranga Boxing Gym tells the story of Chris Walker's ability to get the best out of his fighters.

From New Zealand light welterweight champion Robert Walker in 1997 through to the 2012 New Zealand professional super-middleweight champion, Gunnar Jackson, the success is obvious.

Walker will take two of his boxers to Auckland next week for the national championships and both Scottish-born James Emerson and Joseph Otterson are regarded as good prospects.

Emerson is a heavyweight with 40 bouts behind him, while Otterson is a middleweight with a good record of over 30 bouts.

"They are both quite capable of coming home with medals and they have both made leaps and bounds in improvement over the last six months," Walker said.

"But they are dark horses really and everyone will probably take them cheaply. That is probably a good thing.

"The heavyweight division is quite rich this year so it will be tough.

James had a break from boxing so it has taken him about a year-and-a-half to get back into the swing of things.

"He is looking pretty good actually and we have been working on his strength. He has always been a skilful boxer but the extra strength will help him this year.

"I think the best moments are yet to come for him."

Walker has been training Otterson for just a year and has made some important changes to his boxing make-up to significantly improve his capability in the ring.

"I have added head movement and a couple of punches that he never used to use, like a hook believe it or not.

"We have worked hard on using a range of punches rather than just two and have taught him how to fight the angles. He has improved quite a bit."

There are many facets of what makes a good prospect for Walker and fundamental things he looks for in all his novice fighters.

"Boxing is all about the whole package. You have to have a good heart and be courageous, but also be disciplined, train smart and have a good coach who understands the technicalities of the sport.

"They need also to be mentally able to prepare for competitions. I have had boys in the past who have folded at the big events and others who rise to the challenge."

Walker sees boxing as providing the ideal pathway for young people who need some direction in their life.

He uses the example of one of his champion boxers, Dave Aloua-Rogers, who won the 2009 New Zealand heavyweight title and is now a pro fighter living and training with the famous Mundine family in Australia.

"He came to me from Auckland to escape trouble and he had four losses from four fights. To be fair he was hard work and life is not always easy, but he worked hard and achieved well. He is now undefeated as a pro and is one of Anthony Mundine and Sonny Bill Williams' sparring partners.

"It is a good turnaround from where he came from.

"He got on the straight and narrow and boxing has pretty much been his lifeline."

Boxing's move into the mainstream as a training tool of choice for people of all ages and fitness levels is great news for Walker.

"The awareness of boxing in the Western Bay and nationwide has lifted by such a huge amount it is not funny. Now it is known as a very common form of fitness with boxing classes offered in all gyms.

"The profile of the sport in New Zealand is probably the highest that I can remember."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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