Boxing: He's one you haven't heard of, yet

By Daniel Richardson

Brice Ritani-Coe  is slowly starting to make ripples in the murky world of heavyweight boxing. Photo / supplied.
Brice Ritani-Coe is slowly starting to make ripples in the murky world of heavyweight boxing. Photo / supplied.

Deep in the heart of boxing's capital, Las Vegas, there's a Kiwi fighter you probably haven't heard of.

He hasn't been booked into any big-time fight nights with titles that don't do the card justice - think 'Fight of the Century' or 'Godfather of all Fight Nights' - he doesn't play rugby as well, and you certainly won't see him climb into the ring with a reality TV 'star' in a bid to boost his public profile.

This guy is a genuine fighter.

His name is Brice Ritani-Coe - he made a small splash in amateur boxing in New Zealand in the mid-2000s - and the 26-year-old from Queenstown is slowly starting to make ripples in the murky world of heavyweight boxing.

With a perfect 3-0 professional record, including two knockouts, the big brawler who used to dabble in mixed martial arts is serious about giving boxing a crack.

After finding it tough to get good sparring partners in his homeland, the former security guard headed to Las Vegas via a brief stint in Canada.

"I just want to see how far I can go. That's why I moved over here. It's a big pond. I want to see if I can actually hang with the big fish. I want to see how far I can go and eventually try and get a world title fight and be a world champion," Ritani-Coe told APNZ from Las Vegas.

"Over here I've been sparring with some of the best in the world and it's been really good."

A sprained right wrist forced him to withdraw from his last scheduled bout in Los Angeles in May when he was meant to fight former Canadian amateur champion Matt Mychajliv.

He was disappointed to miss the fight but will meet 33-year-old Kourtney Boden over four rounds on an ESPN Friday Night Fights card in Laughlin, Nevada today (Sat, Jul 21, NZT).

Boden, who has a 3-5 record, knocked out American Clarence Tillman in his professional debut. That's the same Tillman who Sonny Bill Williams dismantled with a first-round TKO in Hamilton in February.

Ritani-Coe is realistic about where he is in the game, given he has had only three fights. He's fought twice this year and needs to keep chipping away.

"I'm a year, perhaps a year and a bit away [from becoming well-known]. I've just got to keep knocking people out, then I'll get up there."

Ritani-Coe laid out giant American Clay Herzing with a first-round knockout in his last fight in April and his right hook featured at No 4 on ESPN's top 10 plays of the day.

"I was pretty happy because I was on an ESPN Friday Night Fights card and I was the first fight up," Ritani-Coe says. "I was happy to get in there and get it over and done with. I didn't realise it would be that quick because he was a big unit."

Ritani-Coe isn't small himself. Standing anywhere between 1.88m or 1.91m, depending on which online biography you believe, he works under trainer Chris Ben-Tchavtchavadze at the University of Las Vegas in their boxing gym.

He does his strength and conditioning training under Jake Bonacci at the Xtreme Couture gym that was founded by retired mixed martial artist Randy Couture.

Bonacci has trained UFC competitors Vitor Belfort and Gray Maynard, while he has also worked San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

"My main focus is getting him into peak fighting shape and making him a better athlete in the process," Bonacci says. "I'm working on his balance, stability, explosiveness, and aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

"I feel that Brice has the speed, power, and athleticism to become a force in the heavyweight division. Brice also has the charisma to attract fans and the power in his punches to knock out any man put in front of him. I can't say those things about any of the other current heavyweights."

Despite forging a 5-1 record in mixed martial arts, Ritani-Coe says he isn't in any rush to return to the cage after torn rib cartilage pushed him away from MMA as he found the grappling and wrestling too painful.

As for how Ritani-Coe would get on against New Zealand's heavyweight boxing champion and most talked-about cross-code athlete, he says he'd welcome a fight against Williams.

"He's good and I'm a fan because of what he does playing rugby, rugby league and now boxing. He's a good athlete, but I know I'd knock him out.

"I'd love to [fight back home]. It'd be really good. A lot of my friends asked me after the Sonny Bill Williams versus Clarence Tillman fight and said 'you should have been fighting'; that would've been fun."

- APNZ

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