Boxer fight­ing for his 100 ‘boys’

Kapi-Mana News - - PAST TIMES - VIR­GINIA FAL­LON

When Latu Talu steps into the ring he’s only think­ing about his boys, all 100 of them.

The head coach of Can­nons Creek Box­ing Academy has just won the na­tional Se­nior Elite Light­weight (U60kg) box­ing ti­tle and said it was the thought of the at-risk boys he coached that spurred him to vic­tory.

‘‘I carry them on my shoul­ders. They make me a bet­ter fighter and the things I win I give to them, I feed them with my fight­ing.’’

Talu had to lose over 15kgs to com­pete in the weight di­vi­sion and said, de­spite hav­ing to give up his much-loved rice and chicken, it was worth it to be­come a New Zealand cham­pion.

‘‘It was a lot of suf­fer­ing, a lot of tears and a lot of blood, but if you love some­thing you have to do it. Hard work pays off and thats what I tell my boys.

‘‘I’ll show them how to do it and down the track we’ll be right be­side each other. You suf­fer for me and I suf­fer for you.’’

Talu was born in Tu­valu and came to New Zealand with his fam­ily when he was seven and won Mi­grant of the Year in 2015, some­thing he still can’t be­lieve.

‘‘I thought they must have been jok­ing when I got that award, there’s much bet­ter peo­ple than me who de­served it.’’

With his eyes firmly set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he said it was unusual for a coach to still be fight­ing and thought it was a great way to in­spire the boys at his academy.

The Porirua gym is an off­shoot of boxer Billy Gra­ham’s Nae­nae Box­ing Academy, which has been cred­ited with cut­ting crime rates in the area since it opened in 2005, and is a pi­lot to see if the model can work in other places - with­out Gra­ham stand­ing at the front of the class.

Talu said he had ini­tially been fright­ened to fol­low in Gra­ham’s foot­steps and be re­spon­si­ble for a gym full of boys.

He said Gra­ham had told him to take some time and think about what he wanted to do.

‘‘I want to do for some­one else what Billy did for me. One per­son changed his life and look how many lives he’s changed.

‘‘If we keep chang­ing lives we’ll have a bet­ter New Zealand and we’ll have men walk­ing around with re­spect for them­selves and re­spect for others.

‘‘You don’t have to be tough, you don’t have to be rough, you can be a gen­tle­man. You don’t like that? Change it. Be happy, I’m happy, be like me.’’

An­other fighter from Nae­nae Box­ing Academy took a cham­pi­onship at the Na­tion­als. Kee­gan O’Kane-Jones from Wainuiomata won the Se­nior Elite Ban­tamweight (U56kg). He also won the Youngest Win­ner trophy 2016.

Billy Gra­ham said O’KaneJones will ul­ti­mately be the head coach at a Wainuiomata branch of his box­ing academy.

Latu Talu has won the na­tional se­nior elite light­weight (un­der 60kg) box­ing ti­tle

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