Pelea Fruean, Joseph Parker's first cousin, is considered a rising star in New Zealand amateur women's boxing and is targeting a medal at the 2020 Olympics.

In the shorter term, the 17-year-old, who struggles to find opposition here in her 60kg weight class such is her talent, is off to fight at the Youth World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. She leaves Auckland tomorrow with coach Billy Meehan, a former top New Zealand amateur, for the tournament which starts on August 21.

Pelea, a prefect at One Tree Hill College, wears the expectation of being the cousin of a former world heavyweight boxing champion lightly.

She has been boxing since the age of 12 after Parker encouraged her to try the sport and now is forging a name in her own right.


"I first started training with Joe at the garage at his house after school," Pelea told the Herald. "My interest in the sport grew and I decided to join an amateur gym where I could start fighting."

She had previously been involved in "netball, swimming, whatever sports could keep me busy, but once I got into boxing I stayed with that".

Last year she won a bronze medal at the youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas. She has also competed in India, Serbia and Samoa. She is New Zealand's only representative in Budapest and has high hopes. "I want to bring home gold," she said.

Pelea Fruean's nickname is 'The Phoenix'. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Pelea Fruean's nickname is 'The Phoenix'. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Pelea fits her training around her school commitments – rising at 5.30am to run and often trains at lunchtime too, as well as at night.

"My goal is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics even though I'm young now and I'll be competing against seniors, I believe I'm capable of making it," she said.

"I'm having to bring in Aussies to fight or go over to Australia to fight. The majority of my fights are overseas, I can't get local fights. With the fights overseas it does give me the international experience, but it would be nice to get a few more fights at home."

Her trainer, Regan Foley, said: "Next year she'll be senior and that should open it up a bit. But because of her age not even seniors will jump in the ring with her at the moment because they don't want to get beaten by someone so young. It's really hard getting matchings. We've been bringing over senior Aussie elite fighters to fight her for experience.

"Her strengths are definitely mid-range combat. We describe it as 'beast mode'. When she gets in there she can fire and she's a very strong girl. She can box, but once she gets on top of a girl she's pretty strong."


Pelea said: "When I first started boxing it was natural. I felt I did have a more aggressive side which came out when I got in the ring. As I get older I find that I can switch it on when I need to."

Pelea said she looked up to her famous cousin and that he was a big supporter. "When he isn't busy with his fights and he's in New Zealand I try to visit him at least once. If I do have a big tournament he'll message me wishing me good luck."

Foley, keen to thank Pelea's major sponsor Dempsey Wood Civil for funding her travel commitments, said there was no longer pressure on her to live up to the family connection.

"She's outgrown that pressure. Her fight name is the Phoenix and that's because of the journey she's been on and now she's starting to spread her wings and believe in herself."

Pelea, the youngest of three children, said: "Me and my brother came up with that nickname. It basically summarises rising up through adversity and being a dominant spirit and fierce when I get in the ring."