A record number of bouts will be held at the 34th annual North Island Golden Gloves in Taupō this weekend.
The event at the Great Lakes Centre today and tomorrow has attracted two groups of club boxers from South Australia and Victoria. It follows on from a small contingent of Australian boxers who made the trip across the ditch last year.
Two legends of amateur boxing in New Zealand are the driving forces behind the tournament that ranks second only, in stature and entry numbers, to the Boxing New Zealand National Championships.
Lead organiser Rex Jenkins, of Rotorua, has been involved in the sport for more than 45 years and has earned a reputation as a coach unparalleled in mentoring young boxers.
He has made several forays across the Tasman with youth teams and his many contacts have led to the second Australian invasion of the Golden Gloves.
"I have been part of the Golden Gloves set-up every year since they first made their entrance at the Wairakei Village hall way back in 1984," Jenkins said.
"While they require a mountain of preparation and work before and during the tournament, I remain just as committed to our sports pathway tournament as I was back at the start."
Long-time boxer, trainer and ringside official Keith Walker, who is responsible for the technical operations of the Golden Gloves, is arguably the best known personality in New Zealand amateur boxing.
Walker has officiated at six Olympic Games and several AIBA international tournaments. Other achievements include serving on the AIBA R&Js Commission and appointment to the AIBA Technical Rules Committee.
Central North Island gyms will lead the charge for the Golden Gloves titles on offer, with strong representation throughout the grades.
Jenkins' Rotorua Central Boxing Club team will be joined by teams from Rotovegas Boxing Gym and Sykes Gym from Rotorua, along with boxers from Tauranga, Tokoroa, Taupo and the recently affiliated Taumarunui Boxing Club.
Rotovegas Boxing Gym owner Aaron Warren is taking eight athletes, and said it was a chance to gain valuable experience in the ring and hopefully win a few titles.
"A lot of these boxers haven't had much experience in the ring, but they've been in the gym for the last two-and-a-half to three years," Warren said.
One of those boxers is Lily Florence and if her ability in the ring is anything like what she produces on the rugby field for the Bay of Plenty Volcanix, her opponent could be in for a long night. This will be her first amateur bout, but she has two wins from two at the gym's corporate boxing nights.
"Boxing is similar to rugby in ways, but different as well. The contact is the same but it's a lot more intense in boxing, it's in a really short amount of time. It's different being an individual sport too, you don't have somebody else to rely on.
"I had been coming into the gym to use the weights and then I did a fight night and I loved it," Florence said.
Another Rotovegas boxer stepping in to the ring this weekend is 15-year-old Tahuriorangi Mihaka. He said his focus was on sticking to what he had learned during training.
"I've had five or six fights, I've won one. I just need to focus on using my technique and doing what I do in training when I'm in the ring," Mihaka said.
The reason for the popularity of the Golden Gloves is two-fold. The first is the central location, with clubs attending from all four corners of the North Island. The second is the inclusion of bouts for mini cadet (10-12 years) to the best elite male and female boxers in the North Island.