BOXING
GAZING out from the balcony of his waterfront apartment across a glistening Tauranga Harbour and to Mauao in the distance, boxer Chauncy Welliver wonders out loud how tough it would be to scale the 230m-high hill dominating the coastal landscape.
In town for tonight's defence of his WBO Asia-Pacific heavyweight title, Welliver had already traversed the base track with sparring partner Freddie Miller, although a new-found passion for fitness put running to the summit in his sights.
But with the fight against Daniel Tai squarely in the frame, Welliver figures scaling Mauao will have to wait. 
His trainer, Joe "The Boss" Hipp, has other ideas, though.
"You're up there on Sunday," says 48-year-old Hipp, quick as a flash and with no trace of jest in his voice.
The 1.83m, 120kg Native American, who still packs a ferocious punch that took him to the WBF heavyweight title in '99 when he defeated countryman Everett Martin, doesn't draw an argument out of Welliver.
"Joe is the greatest Native American boxer without doubt - he was a huge deal for me as a kid growing up. I had his posters all over my walls. He was like Superman to me.
"I must have tracked him down and gotten his autograph 200 times as a boxer growing up."
Hipp was called into action last night at the official weigh-in on The Strand as tempers flared between Welliver and Tai, with security needed to separate the pair after a brief scuffle as they squared off pre-bout, although the minor stoush had more than a touch of amateur theatrics about it.
Hipp has been training Welliver for several months, a period in which the Seattle-based heavyweight has shed 15kg in a transformation that demands the  "fat dorky white guy" to be dropped, or at least modified.
Fighter and trainer are both Native American - Hipp from the famous Blackfoot tribe and  Welliver from Gros Ventre - but the veteran of 50 professional fights before he stepped out of the ring for good in 2005 says their shared heritage isn't a huge deal.
"The fact Chauncy's Native American is a bonus for me, mainly due to the fact I can use him in the work I do in [Indian] reservations [with his All Nations Foundation] working to better the kids there."
What Hipp has done is add a work ethic to Welliver's regime. The pair are at it three times a day, sprinting and pounding the hills, pummelling the mitts, going 12 rounds in the ring and at least an hour on the weights.
Welliver's manager, Roland Jankelson, who also guided Hipp for a decade, has noticed a big shift in mindset.
"Joe's been there as a heavyweight contender and brings the mental side. It's a lot easier in boxing to get 90 per cent of the way up the mountain [but] it's the last 10 per cent that beats most fighters."
Hipp's 18-year pro career is defined by two bouts - becoming the first Native American to challenge for the world heavyweight championship in 1995 when he fought WBA champion Bruce Seldon in Las Vegas, and his clash in '92 with Tommy Morrison in Nevada.
Seldon had won the vacant WBA belt title against Tony Tucker, and Hipp was his first opponent.
The fight was stopped in the 10th round after Hipp's face was left swollen and bleeding.
"I could've gone on when they called it, but I fought the wrong fight against Seldon. I should've gone after him much more than I did.
 I let him box me and he kind of stayed away. His jab was fast and he kept popping my eye with it."
The toe-to-toe stoush with Morrison is one of the great heavyweight fights, and put Hipp on the map. Morrison broke his jaw and both of his hands during the fight, and Hipp, who lost via a 9th round stoppage, shattered both cheekbones.
"The Morrison fight was a great war. I lost the first three rounds when he was trying his best to take me outta there but I thought 'if I'm gonna lose, I'm not gonna lose backing up [so] I stood and traded with him'.
"I felt good after the fight; I knew I'd given my all and that it was a good fight."
Jankelson, who was ringside, felt Hipp was robbed after being knocked down in the 9th round.
"It is one of the great fights you'll see, and Joe was prevented from winning by a terrible, terrible refereeing decision.
"Joe was rocked by Morrison in the 9th and went down. It was a solid knockdown. But he was up at the count of seven and looked at me and nodded to say he was all right.
"Morrison wouldn't have been sent out for the 10th round. He was broken to the point where it was life threatening if he'd fought last round, but then the ref stepped in and stopped it in favour of Morrison.
"It was heartbreaking, but the beginning of Joe as a heavyweight contender."
Hipp, who has twin daughters and a son, all in their 20s, has the face of a boxer, someone who has spent plenty of hours in a ring.
He's hoping some of his trademark toughness rubs off on Welliver.
"My approach was that while I might not have looked much of a fighter to plenty of the guys I fought, once they stepped out of the ring with me they knew I could box."