More than 130 boxers will take to the ring in Christchurch this week and among them is a strong contingent from Rotorua.
Boxers from Rotovegas Boxing Gym, Sykes Boxing Gym and the Central North Island Boxing Club will compete under the Central North Island Boxing Association banner.
The 116th Boxing New Zealand National Championships are being held at the Hornby Club from Wednesday to Saturday and will feature the best amateur boxers in the country.
The event returns to its original home, having first been held at the Theatre Royal in Christchurch, in 1902.
The initial all-male New Zealand championships had a handful of competitors who contested the Bantamweight, Lightweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight divisions.
Last year at the Rotorua Nationals, more than 150 boxers competed in 90 bouts.
Since women's boxing was introduced to the 1997 National Championships in Taupō, with Karen Ellis (Middleweight) and Caroline Sayle (Welterweight) crowned the first New Zealand women's champions, female boxing numbers have skyrocketed, with up to a quarter of the entries in Christchurch expected in the women's divisions
Today, male and female age-group boxers compete in Cadet, Junior and Youth divisions, with the highlight on the last night of the national tournament being the Open Women's and Men's title bouts.
Rotovegas Boxing Gym has seven athletes competing; Graeme Peni (63kg), Kalai Proctor (36kg), Mitchell Robertson (80kg), Timothy Easthope (103kg), Tahuriorangi Mihaka (70kg), Maniteariki Richel (38kg) and Nathan Epana (60kg).
Rotovegas owner and coach Aaron Warren said his athletes had been training six times a week during the last month.
"You can see a big improvement. I believe the team we have all have an opportunity and a good chance to bring a medal home."
He was pleased to see so many boxers from the Central North Island heading to nationals - they had all been training together at the Rotovegas Boxing Gym.
"It's good to have that team environment and we're trying to take that spirit of supporting each other, so when someone is in the ring fighting they know we're all with them," Warren said.
The Central North Island Boxing Club also has seven boxers competing; Naturelle Rangiawha (50kg), Kahn Rangiawha (42kg), Maea Hay (60kg), Kevin Hay (48kg), Emile Richardson (75kg), Cooper White (46kg) and Dylan White (60kg).
Central North Island Boxing Club owner and coach Rex Jenkins said four of his boxers would be defending the national titles they won in Rotorua last year.
"Their chances are very good, they have the willingness and a lot of commitment. They've done a hell of a lot of work to get to nationals. The CNI Champs, the Novice Champs, the Golden Gloves, it's been a big lead-up."
Sykes Boxing Gym has one boxer competing at nationals, rising star Tyson Corbett, 16, in the Welterweight Youth division.
Sykes owner and coach Mike Sykes said Tyson was going into the nationals in good form, having won welterweight title and most scientific boxer at the Central North Island Boxing Championships.
"He's looking sharp and he has a good chance of coming away with a gold medal. To do well you have to be fit, for a start, and have that will to win. You have to make sure you get your weight right - Tyson is right on his weight now, no problems, so he should be strong as.
"He's keen, he's fit, he listens and he's a good humble young man with good manners. You have to have manners and a good attitude in boxing and in anything in life."
Tyson said he was feeling fit and strong.
"My focus will be on sticking my jab a lot. Every time he throws a punch, I'll throw three or four, I won't let him get the upper hand."
There are also boxers from Tutahi Boxing in Papamoa and the Taumarunui Silverback Boxing Academy, who have been training with the Rotorua boxers and will compete at nationals under the Central North Island Boxing Association umbrella as well.