David Nyika's dream is finally a reality. The Hamilton heavyweight has qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games, becoming the first New Zealand male boxer to do so for 16 years.

Nyika's journey to the Olympics has been fraught to say the least.

Four years ago the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist encountered controversial judging decisions as he failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

It was a devastating setback for the young prodigy.


This time around, he and the nine-strong New Zealand boxing contingent were forced to reschedule plans after the Asia Oceania Olympic qualifying tournament was moved at late notice from Wuhan, China, to Amman, Jordan, due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

The New Zealand team had another coronavirus scare while training in northern Italy, one of the worst hit areas, in preparation for the qualifying tournament.

In the 91kg category, Nyika enjoyed a first-round bye, thanks to his second rank for the tournament, which pushed him straight through to the quarterfinals where he faced a make or break fight against Syrian opponent Alaa Aldin Ghousoon for his Olympic dream.

In the lead-up to that critical career juncture Nyika had to overcome news that his grandfather, Derrick Depledge, died.

Over the past four years Nyika also endured a split from his long-time coach Rick Ellis and put on 10kg to move up a weight division.

"It's been a rollercoaster both physically and mentally," Nyika said. "I had my granddad pass away early this week while I was training at the venue. That threw me around a little bit. My family is holding the service Monday afternoon.

"It's tested my character. I feel like I've got the psychological attributes I need to be one of the best in boxing. It takes so much more than being a tough guy. I've allowed that to build me up rather than drag me down."

Nyika secured a unanimous decision victory over Ghousoon where he avoided most of his southpaw opponent's dangerous overhand left hooks and returned fire with plenty of his own shots.


The 24-year-old becomes New Zealand's first male boxer to qualify for the Olympics since Soulan Pownceby placed 17th at the 2004 Games in Athens.

David Tua's heavyweight bronze in Barcelona in 1992 was New Zealand's last Olympics boxing medal. Ted Morgan's welterweight gold in Amsterdam in 1928, and Kevin Barry's light heavyweight silver in Los Angeles in 1984, are the only other Kiwis to achieve the feat.

Having secured his pathway, relief is Nyika's immediate emotion.

"It's been 10 years in the making but at the same time every year seems to drag on and on because the nature of the Olympics is it only comes around once every four years.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself. I've never felt so much pressure before in my life because I know that I've earned the right to be at an Olympic Games because of the hard work and everything I've gone through.

"To get over the line is reassuring. It makes me feel like the hard work pays off you just have to be a bit patient and when you're 20-years-old and it doesn't go your way it's a kick in the butt.

"One of the main things was bringing some light to my family in what can be quite a dark time with the family passing. Hopefully I can bring a bit of positivity. It sucks not being home when everyone else is having a hard time. Now I feel I can be present without actually being present."

With the weight of qualification lifted, Nyika's focus switches to his two possible remaining fights in Amman this week.

Win both, and a top four seeding is likely for the Olympics which should give him a much easier draw to navigate in his quest to push on and medal in Japan.

"It's been my dream from before I started boxing. When I was running with the Hamilton City Hawks I really wanted to be a marathon runner. I'm far beyond that now, but I've always wanted to excel in my chosen sport so it's a dream come true."

New Zealand's other Olympic boxing hopefuls get one final chance to join Nyika by satisfying criteria at the notoriously difficult world qualifying event in Paris in May.