When Lani Daniels beat Alrie Meleisea to claim the vacant IBF world heavyweight title in May, it was a moment she doubted would ever come to fruition.
Now, she has the opportunity to become a two-weight world champion.
After a successful defence of her belt in August, Daniels will now drop to light heavyweight on Saturday night in Whangārei for a chance to claim the IBF world title in a second weight class against Australian Desley Robinson (5-1).
Reflecting on her journey to this point, the 35-year-old told the Herald a shift in her focus has been key to unlocking her potential.
“It was just my life choices,” she said. “I wasn’t living a life that aligned with being a world champion. Now that I am, I think the world is my oyster and I’m going to be a pearl.
“[It was] food, not training, distracted by the ways of the world; too many fun times not hard times in terms of putting in the mahi.”
Daniels had fought for a world title previously but dropped a unanimous decision to Geovana Perez with the WBO light heavyweight belt on the line in 2019. She followed that bout with back-to-back draws but has since gone on a five-fight winning streak which has seen her record grow to 9-2-2.
Her career longevity was one of the key factors in her putting more focus on the sport, and she said she has reaped the rewards as a result.
“Age was probably the biggest part - I’m nearing the end - and my health,” she said. “I was getting out of shape and miserable, so it kind of all sparked. That and the ongoing support of my coach who believed in me and knew I had it but was just waiting for me to see that.
“[My boxing] has skyrocketed. It’s evidence of what we’re doing and it’s evidence of living and breathing it. My whole life I’ve always been a part-timer just doing it as a side hustle where it truly has shown me that if you take the risk, put all the eggs in one basket, great things can happen.”
Should she handle business against Robinson this weekend, Daniels has indicated she could look to move further down in weight and test the waters as a super middleweight in 2024, though should she hold titles in two weight classes, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear potential opponents calling for a shot at her throne.
The bout will be Motu’s second title defence after claiming the vacant strap in April and she will be one of several fighters from the Peach Boxing stable to compete on the card.
Top 15-ranked light heavyweight Jerome Pampellone (17-0) will look to continue his rise in the division against tough and tested Mexican veteran Rogelio Medina (41-9), super flyweight Zain Adams (4-0) meets Thailand’s Patthaphi Camton (3-0), while Roseanna Cox (1-0) meets Trish Vaka (1-6) at a catchweight.
Northland NPC star Matt Matich will also appear on the card in a corporate bout against Kurt Benney.
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.