Former professional boxer Dave Letele, aka Brown Buttabean, yesterday said thanks to Russell Roads for its support by sharing his motivational story.

Two years ago the Hastings civil engineering company's managing director Robbie Gale started sponsoring Mr Letele's boxing career after he was impressed with the heavyweight almost halving his body weight.

Born into a family of gang members Mr Letele was separated from his New Zealand siblings and raised in Australia by grandparents.

On returning to New Zealand he showed promise as a league player, playing for New Zealand secondary and Maori teams. He was signed to Manly but never played for the NRL team because of knee injuries.


Mr Letele moved into the business world where he said he over-reached, losing his businesses, his family and ultimately his health.

At this low point he reconnected with former Selwyn College classmate and friend Dave Higgins, boss of the boxing promoters behind Joseph Parker, Duco Events, who encouraged him to take stock of his life.

Mr Letele took up boxing - his professional persona was Brown Buttabean - and as his fitness rose his weight dropped by 90kg.

His fight appearances garnered headlines, 16,000 Facebook followers and he was in demand as an inspiration to others battling weight and unhealthy lifestyles.

Robbie and his wife Michelle offered Mr Letele sponsorship "more for the man than the boxer", Mr Gale said.

"We really felt that what Dave is doing for others through his own his determination was worthy of support," he said.

Mr Letele said the initial sponsorship from Russell Roads was a "godsend" initially as he had "only $20 to my name", while the ongoing sponsorship helped him achieve success over the past two years, he told more than 70 Russell Roads employees.

In 2015 he launched and an app providing inspiration and "no excuses" guidance.

The exercise regime he promotes is based around using own body weight, "rather than fancy gym equipment".

Most of his clients are from struggling Pacific Island families where obesity is a problem so his programme is attracting public funding.

He is now a motivational speaker while training up to 500 people weekly, also supplying diet programmes and support groups.

He said there were times when life was tough but through hard work "anything is possible".