By ANGELA GREGORY
Executive members of Boxing New Zealand last night decided to stand by their controversial nomination of Soulan Pownceby for the Athens Olympics.
Pownceby was jailed in 1995 for four years for the manslaughter of his 5-month-old daughter.
Boxing New Zealand chairman Keith Walker said that a 45-minute conference call with four other North Island members and one Canterbury member had unanimously agreed to stick with the decision.
"This puts the matter to rest as far as Boxing New Zealand is concerned."
On television last night a tearful Pownceby apologised and accepted responsibility for what he had done.
The boxer said he could not change the past. " I am sorry and I'm just trying to be the best person I can be."
Pownceby, who today flies to Tahiti for more Games preparations, said Athens was a chance to make something of his life. "If I don't go to the Games I have nothing."
The New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary-general, Barry Maister, said Pownceby was unlikely to be "deselected".
"We are listening and watching ... but nothing has come to us to suggest we should review what we have in front of us."
He confirmed yesterday that Pownceby, previously known as Soulan Rikihana, had not just served time for manslaughter but got into trouble after his release from jail.
The boxer said there were four more assault convictions, between 1998 and 2000, including one involving a woman.
The Herald learned yesterday that Pownceby did not tell boxing authorities about the assault convictions when he was under consideration for the Olympics.
Mr Walker told the Herald it was not until documents were received from the Corrections Department in May, after approval for their release by Pownceby, that the assaults were established. Pownceby had earlier told boxing officials of the manslaughter charge but not the assaults.
"He was told we were concerned he didn't own up."
Mr Walker said that when Pownceby was asked why he had not mentioned the convictions, he said he felt he had paid his penalties.
"He didn't feel they [the assaults] were serious enough."
The president of the Auckland Boxing Association, Gary McCrystal, also confirmed that he knew only of Pownceby's manslaughter conviction when he first discussed with his committee members the boxer's suitability for the Olympics.
The majority of the eight committee members felt Pownceby should go to the Olympics, but there was some dissension.
"There were a couple who were very apprehensive."
Mr McCrystal said he learned of the assaults about three weeks ago.
But they did not change the association's position.
He said they had occurred not long after Pownceby got out of prison at a time when he was very unhappy and unstable.
Pownceby, who did not like talking about his past, had since turned his life around through his boxing, said Mr McCrystal.
"He has made quick progress and has a lot of natural talent."
Mr McCrystal said Pownceby, who has represented New Zealand and won three Oceania titles, would be up against stiff competition in the light-heavyweight category.
Mr Maister said Pownceby had been up front when asked recently about his convictions.
He was interviewed face to face and over the telephone, and police checks were sought.
"The police indicated there was no reason why we should not select him."
Mr Maister said Pownceby's coach and manager were interviewed and he was held in high regard.
He did not think Pownceby's presence would cast a slur on the New Zealand team at Athens.
"He will not let them down."
Pownceby's coach, Chris Martin, said there had been no trouble in the past four years.
"He has shown dedication and commitment. He is now a changed man."
By ANGELA GREGORY