Six weeks ago, when New Zealand heavyweight boxer Junior Fa travelled to Salt Lake City, Utah to go into camp for his fight against American Devin Vargas, he carried with him a heavy heart and the words of his dying father, Uaine, the man he is named after.

The message was don't stop – keep fighting – and the 30-year-old Junior, undefeated over 18 fights, intends to do just that when he steps into the Salt Palace ring against Vargas next Saturday NZT. It will fuel his fire even further, he said.

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The Fa family had about five weeks to prepare for Uaine's death from cancer, and for that they are grateful. The 62-year-old was at home in Papakura watching the All Blacks play South Africa in their World Cup pool game in Yokohama on September 21 when he collapsed at halftime. He died in hospital the next night.

The end was sudden but that's the way Uaine wanted it, said Junior. "He wasn't the type of man to be lying around and being cared for," he told the Herald.

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The Tongan-born Uaine, a fine amateur boxer in his youth, was a busy, popular and proud man, a factory worker and the biggest supporter of the five Fa children – Junior has an older brother, two older sisters, and a younger brother. And so the funeral was effectively a week-long celebration of his life.

"When he was diagnosed, mum (Edith) kept everything quiet because she knew as soon as everyone knew he was going to pass everyone would flood the house," Junior said. "She told us not to tell too many people because 'dad doesn't have too long here and we have to make sure we spend the time with him'."

Heavyweight boxer Junior Fa with his 3 year-old son Ezra who has autism. 16 November 2017 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Brett Phibbs.
Heavyweight boxer Junior Fa with his 3 year-old son Ezra who has autism. 16 November 2017 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Brett Phibbs.

Once the news was out, the Fa household was a busy place, as expected; it was full of relatives and friends and supporters of the whole family, including fellow City Kickboxing gym-goer Israel Adesanya, the newly-crowned UFC middleweight world champion.

"He was very committed to us kids," Junior said of his dad. "He would always take us to our trainings and the park. He always wanted us to succeed in our sport because I think he knew we were all sport-driven children.

"When I go to Tonga I learn different things about him every time I go. The first time I went the people told me stories about my dad and how good he was at boxing. I had no clue. He's the type of fella who wouldn't talk about himself unless you asked him about it.

"Growing up, I basically saw two sports – rugby because of where we live, New Zealand - and I saw boxing because my dad was constantly punching the bag downstairs. I didn't like rugby so I wanted to do boxing. When I turned 15 my dad finally took me to a boxing gym.

"He was always a very big supporter.

"The one thing he told me was 'don't stop, keep on going. It doesn't matter that I'm gone, just carry on with the boxing - it will be good for the family'. I guess I can use that extra fuel for the flames for my fight."

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Junior said after a good camp he was fully focused on his fight against Vargas, a 37-year-old former Olympian who has a 21-5 win-loss record.

Fa won't lack for support due to his family connections in Utah, but Vargas presents a real challenge. His last defeat was against current world champion Andy Ruiz Jr and he is likely to bring a defensive nous and durability that could take the fight the whole 10 rounds.

Fa's fight is the main event, with fellow Kiwi-Tongan Hemi Ahio, the main undercard fight. Ahio, a hard-hitting crowd pleaser, has signed with Fa's American promoter Lou di Bella.

Whether Fa succeeds or not, the night is likely to be an emotional one for him and his family.

Either way, he just wants to do Uaine proud.