8.15am



Boxer Soulan Pownceby did not "even feel like living any more" in the midst of the media and public storm which erupted after his selection to represent New Zealand at next month's Olympic Games in Athens, he said today.



No sooner had Pownceby, 29, been confirmed as New Zealand's only boxer for the Olympics on June 21 than it was disclosed he had been convicted in 1995 for the manslaughter of his five-month-old daughter.



Although he had fought at international level for four years in comparative anonymity, Pownceby suddenly found himself the most talked about person in New Zealand.

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"It was the biggest pounding I've ever had, spiritually," he told The Press newspaper.



"When I'm basically in such a state that I don't even feel like living any more that can't be good," he said from his training camp in Tahiti yesterday.



"That first few days it was a feeling of being trapped and you can't even fight back. It's like I can't say anything in my defence. That was the worst thing for me."



Pownceby was the subject of newspaper editorials, some supportive, others negative, and dominated letters to editors in the country's newspapers.



Pownceby had attempted to reveal his past on a TVNZ pre-Olympic Road to Athens prorgamme weeks earlier.



He voluntarily admitted his manslaughter conviction and four-year prison sentence.



"I wanted it out. I knew it was going to get out there. I expected a big reaction after Road to Athens and that's what I was preparing for. Nothing really came," he said.



"I knew exactly what I was getting myself into because I know with any sportsman who makes it, anything about their past is going to come out.



"To me the positive thing was the fact from that point no one could ever have anything on me.



"No one could say they knew something about me. It was out in the open and I could focus on the future.



"It was not the kind of thing I talk about because it tears me apart emotionally.



"There's three things that can always upset me. One of them is my daughter, another one is my mother, and the other one is my sister. They have all gone."



Pownceby's sister was murdered by her partner in 1990.



He revealed yesterday that the man, the father of his sister's three children, committed suicide a few days later.



His mother died of cancer in 1993.



Pownceby's father, a United States Navy serviceman, has never recognised him.



"You have wounds, the scars. All this (furore) tore them apart, brought up those feelings and emotions that are very, very painful," he said.



"Making the Olympics, actually getting it announced, the actual realisation, was one of the worst moments of my life when it should have been the best moment of my life to date.



"Part of the reason I continued on with my boxing was I wanted to set an example to my own family members.



"They have had a hard life as well. I wanted to say 'Hey, if I can make the Olympics then you can do something with your life'."



Pownceby wants to be a role model for his younger brother, and the two nephews and a niece who were raised by an aunt in Rotorua after his sister was killed.



"They had a rough life. Before they were even five years old their mum and dad were dead. I just want to set an example, to show them if I can do this then maybe one day you can have a good job and a good home, something that's achievable.



"The only way I can do that is to live it. I can't just say it to them."



Pownceby concedes he was not reformed by his jail sentence, leading to four more assault charges after his release and before he starting boxing seriously.



"What happened with my daughter was an accident and I don't care what anyone says. I know what happened.



"After that, I found myself in a cycle of behaviour that even I didn't agree with. I hated myself for doing those kinds of things, for putting myself in those situations.



"I could have walked away but I didn't. I hated myself for those assaults and stuff."



Finding boxing and the support of his Christchurch-based coach Paul Fitzsimons and Olympic Games coach Phil Shatford had helped bhim enormously.



"Fitzy to me was more than boxing. He actually cared about me," he said.



"We've had such a good relationship because I know when he's in the ring with me -- and it's the same with (Olympic coach) Phil (Shatford) -- I know they care about me.



"I'm not just a product that's expendable. It's hard to love if all you have experienced is hate."



Pownceby believes the reaction to his selection has seriously affected his Olympic Games preparation, although the last nine days in Tahiti have helped.



"Four years ago when I started out on this journey to these Olympics there were so many people saying to me I couldn't make it.



"I couldn't listen to them because if I believed it I wouldn't be here.



"In recent times I've used my examples from sport as the importance of putting yourself in an environment where you can succeed, an environment where you can put yourself up to win."



Tomorrow, Pownceby has his only pre-Olympic bout, against Queenslander Rolf Suchanek in Christchurch.



- NZPA