View interactive

James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Roles reversed for boxing fight night

'Ring boys' will entertain crowd between bouts at all-female boxing event promoting women as role models.

Jess Koia, 18, is one of the younger women on the card and says boxing "gives you confidence and it makes you feel safer". Photo / Alan Gibson
Jess Koia, 18, is one of the younger women on the card and says boxing "gives you confidence and it makes you feel safer". Photo / Alan Gibson

It's a twist on the normally macho and testosterone-fuelled sport of boxing with an all-women fight card and "ring boys" providing the entertainment between rounds.

A fight night to be held in Kawerau tomorrow is a first for the small Bay of Plenty town that has struggled in the past with social stigma and bad news headlines.

Kawerau Boxing Gym trainer Warwick Godfery said that while men had been missing from his gym for nearly two years, he had a growing stable of talented female boxers. He sought a competition for them and the result is the Mana Wahine fight-night, with 14 women from Kawerau, Opotiki, Whakatane and Rotorua battling it out in the ring.

"It's all girls, we have 15 girls from various ages from 30 years and under because the boys are too busy shaving their legs at home or who knows what they are doing," he said.

Mr Godfery, a former Mongrel Mob member turned local councillor, has been involved with helping the most vulnerable people in his community.

He said the disciplines the women were learning through boxing were transferable to other areas in their lives.

"It's a healthy lifestyle message targeting our young girls and it's showcasing the girls as role models, it's a community-wide message, things about good work ethics and challenging other girls to be successful in whatever field - not necessarily boxing but whatever field."

Among those stepping in the ring for the first time is Zhantellie Te Riini, a 20-year-old mother who is studying to become a pharmacy technician.

Te Riini said she was excited and nervous about the bout, which she had been training for twice daily for months. She started training after having her baby 18 months ago and now weighs 57kg, having lost 16kg.

She said they had organised for local young men to act as ring girls in between rounds and "we told them they had to take their shirts off".

Also on the card is last year's Tarawera High School dux, Jessie Koia, who is hoping to enter police college. The 18-year-old said she had been around the sport for most of her life as her mother had also trained in boxing.

"The sport gives you confidence and it makes you feel safer," she said.

The event has garnered the support of several Kawerau community groups including Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Tuwharetoa Ki Kawerau Health, Education and Social Services and Manna Support Services.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 22 Sep 2014 12:02:05 Processing Time: 538ms