Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Joseph Parker's next opponent: 10 things you didn't know about Solomon Haumono

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NRL league forward turned boxer Solomon Haumono is Joseph Parker's next opponent, as the Kiwi builds up for a crack at Joshua Anthony's world heavyweight title.

Haumono has been hard to miss in the headlines over a long sporting career but has struggled to match the hype in the ring.

1) Haumono followed his father Maile in becoming an Australian heavyweight champion. Haumono Snr fought Aussie boxing legend Tony Mundine a number of times, the foundation for a friendship between their sons Solomon and Anthony Mundine. Both boys became high profile and controversial NRL footballers who turned to boxing. Maile once sparred with Joe Frazier, and at the age of 67 hopped in the ring to spar with his son this year.

2) The 40-year-old Haumono was born in Auckland, raised in Sydney and is of Tongan heritage. He played in the Tongan league side which almost upset the Kiwis - who were packed with households names such as Matthew Ridge, Stacey Jones, Steve Kearney and Ruben Wiki - in the 1995 World Cup pool game at Warrington.

3) In a Telegraph interview last year, Haumono revealed a history of drug addiction which included taking cocktails of cocaine and P, multiple suicide attempts and severe depression. He was also involved in the mass production of the drug ecstasy. During one binge, Haumono placed the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth and tried to pull the trigger with his big toe but it didn't fire. The drug use had started during his playing days as neighbours may have suspected, when he would run around the garden "firing my assault rifle into the air to let my frustrations out". This is all being put to the good nowadays. As part of his recovery process, Haumono is helping others including through setting up a drop-in centre for troubled youth in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern.

4) Haumono holds a strange NRL record...for most maternal pitch invasions. His mother Levini charged onto the field during two NRL games after he was knocked out. Haumono told the Sydney Morning Herald it made him feel lucky. "It showed the world I'm loved...a parent will do anything for their kid.''

5) In 2006, Haumono married Margaret Sutherland, a cousin of Anthony Mundine, and they have five children. Initially, marriage did not stop his nightclubbing and drug problems. Margaret said: "He'd leave home on Monday and I wouldn't see him 'til Sunday. Then he'd start an argument with me to get out of the house again." An episode at a London nightclub when he saw "demons" scared Haumono into quitting drugs.

6) His highest profile relationship was with a British model Gabrielle Richens, known as 'The Pleasure Machine' because of her role as a stripper in a Virgin airline commercial. He quit the Bulldogs to chase her to England but pleasure turned to pain when Richens rejected the lovestruck footballer, who was left "devastated". Mundine got leave from the Dragons to zoom off to London and bring his mate home.

7) Haumono played international league during the Super League war of the late 1990s. The powerful forward started with the Sea Eagles in 1994, played over 100 NRL games for four different clubs, and had another couple of seasons with the London Broncos. He had huge potential as an explosive player - Canterbury coach Chris Anderson told author Paul Kent that he was "way in front of (Gordon) Tallis...he can belt a bloke in defence and is simply devastating in attack." But his career was troubled and he amassed over $25,000 in fines during one seasons with the Bulldogs.

8) Haumono has tried to lure Parker into fights, accusing the south Aucklander of avoiding him. Parker's handler Dean Lonergan retorted saying: "Solomon can keep talking this thing up as much as he wants but...he needs to get himself ranked in the organisations and start going out and getting interesting fights. At the moment, as far as we see it, it's a two round fight where Solomon gets knocked out in a very short space of time."

9) The tale of the tape...Haumono's first fight was in 2000, and he has a record of 24 wins (21 by knockout), 2 draws and 2 losses...his height and reach is 1.88m (compared to Parker's 1.93m for both)...rankings are a mysterious business but Haumono's best position right now is 12 on the WBA list (the WBA has Parker at 10) but he doesn't figure highly anywhere else. His last fight was in late April against 44-year-old Argentinian Manuel Alberto Pucheta, who chose to clown about before being knocked out in the sixth round. Papers described the fight in Brisbane as "underwhelming" and "another setback for boxing".

10) Haumono quit the Mundine camp about seven years ago amid suggestions he felt his old mate was hogging the limelight. Haumono is now managed by Matt Rose, brother of burly NRL forward George Rose. Haumono was trained by Johnny Lewis, something of an Australian boxing legend, but reports this year say he is guided by Marcus Johnson who is described as a former sparring partner of 1990s world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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