It's fair to label Waitiria Greeks as the ideal role model for the inspiring change aspect of the Battle for Life charity boxing event.

"The effects of suicide and drug abuse ... I've seen it all. I see a lot out of it out in our community and I separated from the father of my kids five years ago because of drug abuse," Greeks recalled before another training session in the countdown to Saturday night's 10th and final edition of the event at the Hastings Sports Centre.

The 29-year-old mother of four was also homeless when she met Battle for Life founder, the late Patrick O'Brien and his wife Theresa, Greeks trainer, last year.

"It was through a Maraenui-based home ownership programme Theresa was running. I got to know them both and took up the opportunity to get involved in Battle for Life," Greeks explained.


"It's been a journey of healing through physical activity and Taha Maori in a positive environment. I was in a bad way after my separation and then losing my mother [Marama Greeks] who died in 2017. But I've got my life on track again," Greeks said.

Her mother had been missing for more than a week when her body was found near Opape, east of Opotiki. Police ruled there were no suspicious circumstances.

Greeks pointed out she learnt about the benefits of physical activity when she did a Maori Health Promotions degree at Otaki's Te Wananga of Raukawa. She is now working as a youth development kaiarahi for Theresa.

"I've been training since September for my first Battle for Life fight. I was never in to sport at school and used to wag when the athletics sports were on. Some of my old schoolmates still can't believe I'm stepping into the ring this weekend," the Hukarere College old girl explained.

Greeks admitted knowing little about her Palmerston North opponent Erin Shaw. However she is confident Theresa has prepared her well for the bout.

"I'll have the necessary fitness and endurance levels. But it's my mental strength which will get me through. Because of the journey I've been on I am prepared for anything," Greeks added.

Her fight will be one of 15 on the card.

"Celebrating a Champ and Inspiring Change" will be the theme of Saturday night's event.


Hawke's Bay's 2019 Person of the Year, Patrick O'Brien, was one of two people killed in a crash on the Hawke's Bay Expressway on November 15 last year, the eve of when the 10th anniversary of Battle for Life was originally scheduled to be celebrated.

Battle for Life had been a labour of love for O'Brien and his family.

Prompted by tragedy and the alarming health and social statistics in Hawke's Bay, the event has always been tied to driving social and behavioural change and steered by O'Brien's vision and commitment to make a meaningful difference for his province.

More than 10, 000 people, including participants and spectators, have been a part of the event's history. O'Brien would have celebrated his 39th birthday this week.

Not only are this year's fighters motivated by their connection to O'Brien but also the kaupapa, with fighters and organisers setting a $50,000 fundraising goal for this final farewell.

They have a head start thanks to the $10,000 raised last year that was gifted by supporters through Givealittle pages, even when the event didn't go ahead.


The funds will be received and distributed by Anahera o Te Rangi Charitable Trust to support programmes and initiatives which help save lives, build resilience and give people hope in Hawke's Bay.

Aspiring to bring O'Brien's "Dream Big" philosophy to reality, organisers are asking the community to step up and honour the work and sacrifice of O'Brien by giving generously and taking the opportunity to help leave a legacy which will be felt for years to come.

"Pat believed in setting bold and courageous goals. His goal for the 10th anniversary was that the money raised would go towards creating a project where we can house, rehabilitate, educate and strengthen our people," Theresa said.

In response to the government's restrictions on crowd gatherings to manage the spread of corona virus Saturday night's event has been restricted to VIP seating only.

Theresa said this move means no more than 500 people will attend the event and those who have purchased general admission tickets will be refunded.

The card

Paige Whaanga v Jahleen Dixon
James Gardiner v Jarrod Wallis
Jimmy Pentland v Teira Cowan
Mel Skews v Gundeep Singh
Seiin Paul v Ricki Walker
Waitiria Greeks v Erin Shaw
Shane McGrail v Chaz Gillies
Quade Smith v Sam McKellar
Tony Morrell v Frankie McRoy
Tom Van Rijk v Taegyn Oldridge
Jimmy Pentland v Henare Davis
Dayna Brown v Stacey Loye
Sino Aiolupotea v Paraire King
Kelvyn Jones v Jason Paenga
Cruizer Robinson v Joseph Morrell