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Sport: Kiwi Boxing's Groundhog Day

Kiwi Boxing's Groundhog Day

By Julian Slade

Auckland fight fans experienced a nagging sense of déjà vu when Guillermo "La Pantera" Mosquera and Rawiri Wiremu clashed heads twice, before their New Zealand light welterweight title fight was called off in the third round.

The depressing familiarity of Friday's bout echoed the pro boxers' earlier title clash - in April 2006 – when they also clashed heads twice and the fight was stopped in the third round.

Blood flowed from both fighters' heads, with Wiremu bleeding from the centre of his forehead, while Mosquera was cut badly by his left eye.

Sections of the crowd booed referee and New Zealand National Boxing Federation president Gary McCrystal's decision to award a technical draw, after advice from ringside doctor David Renata that Pantera's cut was deep and close to a nerve.

Photos by Dave Cameron

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Boxing buddies: Auckland-based Venezuelan Guillermo "Pantera" Mosquera with his cornerman Marciello Vuljan.

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Clear bill of health: New Zealand light welterweight title challenger Rawiri Wiremu is given the all clear by ring doctor Dave Renata.

Frustration at what had promised to be an exciting rematch was understandable, as the fight had held so much promise. Pantera, an Auckland-based Venezuelan whose international boxing career is still going strong after 23 years, made his customary elaborate entry to the beat of African drummers. The head trainer at Grey Lynn's Kings Gym had promised to represent his fight club in appropriate style and the consummate showman didn't disappoint, wearing a regal red cape and a crown.

A lengthy delay in proceedings as Pantera was gloved up late had already added tension to his keenly-anticipated ring entrance. Wiremu was forced to wait 10 long minutes for his opponent to appear, jogging and dancing in the ring to stay warm.

The combatants displayed silky ring skills, then their contest intensified after the first head clash early in the second round, with both fighters chasing a knockout. So fans were rightly disappointed when the promise of an exciting 12-round match-up was dashed. But apart from the boos and jeers, the capacity crowd could not complain they didn't get their money's worth after an exciting evening of boxing.

ABA matchmaker Johnny Lloyd says Friday's fight night drew the biggest-ever crowd to the Auckland Boxing Association stadium in Ngahura St, Eden Terrace. An estimated 600-strong audience was treated to an evening of top class amateur and professional bouts, while a further 100 had to be turned away from the standing-room-only venue as it had reached capacity.

The Kings Gym was founded by Grey Lynn community leader Pat Clark in 2006. The success of its show, the first at the ABA stadium this year, was seen by fight fans as a good omen for Auckland boxing in 2008.

Pantera's coaching as well as fighting skills were on display, with many of his young charges seeing ring action. A notable Pantera protégé - exciting young fighter Adrian Taihia - put on a thriller in his first appearance out of the amateur ranks, dropping Damon Johnston of Whangarei twice to score the ultimate pro debut: A first round knockout.

Fellow Kings stablemate Paz Viejo (who came into the fight with a less then impressive six win/23 loss [six KOs] record) showed some polished ringcraft against Gareth Jenkins of the Rodney District Boxing Association, acting decisively to force the second first round knockout of the evening.

The vicious victory - courtesy of some powerful hook shots - was a coming of age for the journeyman, his first knockout win in a career marked more for ring survival than the stalking dominance he displayed at the ABA. An ecstatic "Pistol Paz" did a victory lap ringside, earning high fives and exuberant congratulations from his supporters and grudging respect from those who had previously doubted his abilities.

Fili Mailata of Samoa looked sharp in his clash with the experienced Kings Gym fighter Jamie Waru, using his long jab well to score a split points decision over the veteran international campaigner.

The amateur section of the show featured some blazing duels. City Gym fighter Issac Peach (whose "streetfighting" style is more suited for the pros) impressed in his points win over Robbie Berridge of Peter Derrick's Northside stable. Zig Zag Wallace from Te Awamutu outpointed Luke Searle of Christchurch, while Tyson Whalley of Te Awamutu defeated Nik Charalampous of Northside.

And Manurewa trainer Ofisa Vili was beaming after his young charge Ambrose Mataio contested two amateur fights on the card and won both. Mataio was one of only two New Zealand fighters (the other was Lolo Heimuli's promising superheavyweight Junior Fa, already a national champion) to win matches against top flight Samoans in the international pro/am event at Faleata Gym, Apia on February 2.

Heavyweight Shane Cameron - who, with his manager Ken Reinsfield, worked the corner for successful amateur Ricky Murphy - was invited into the ring afterwards to talk about his upcoming April 11 bout at Auckland's Sky City convention centre. He was to have fought Moultrie Witherspoon of the United States, but will now be facing off against Jonathan Haggler. The show's undercard includes Auckland-based American Ed Mahone vs Mark de Mori of Australia, Chris Martin's exciting "mini-Tyson" Steve Heremaia vs the very capable Lee Oti, Soulan Pownceby vs Supi Moimoi and Rasef Muntaz vs Fale Siaoloa.

Hip hop quartet Four Corners performed live head-nodding sets at Friday's tournament. Sarah Teakaraanga - who along with Tui Gallagher and Cushla Sain is one of New Zealand's few female boxing promoters – proved herself a Jill-of-all-trades by not only organising Friday's show but also featuring in it. Sarah fought an action-packed exhibition bout with Megan Maka.

The Auckland Boxing Association hosts its next pro/am tournament on Thursday March 27. The professional card includes match-ups between Paz Viejo and Harry Venka, while Adrian Taihia contests his second pro fight against Star Chong Nee, brother of Rico Chong Nee (an international boxer who has fought Anthony Mundine) and acclaimed hip hop/soul performer John Chong Nee.

Ofisa Vili's showcase of inter-Island rivalry - his Tonga vs Samoa tournament - is held the following night, Friday March 28, at the Browns Rd Netball Centre in Manurewa. Vili is known for putting on good match-ups with deep undercards that commonly run until midnight. He brings promising fighters over from the Pacific Islands and also coaches young south Aucklanders, running his gym with strict discipline that includes no bandanas or gang colours and transforming neighbourhood troublemakers into competitive, focused boxers.

Friday's full tournament results:

Amateur – A. Mataio (Manurewa) 56.5kg def A. Whalley (Te Awamutu) 56.5kg points. C. Miraldi (Rotorua) 56.2kg def F. Koshida (Albany) 57kg rsc (referee stops contest) rd 2 (injury). J. Encomcendero (Kings Gym) 67kg def C. Green (Otorohonga) 69.3kg points. J. Stacey (Kings) 74.5kg def B. Vili (Manurewa) 79.7kg points. N. Cohen (Eagle Gym) 83.2kg def K. Kepoa (Kings) 85kg points. A. Mataio (Manurewa) 56.5kg def B. Paul (Christchurch) 56.9kg pts (Mataio fought twice). R. Murphy (ABA Schuster) 66.3kg def C. Milnes (Northside) 68.7kg on retirement. I. Peach (City Boxing) 76.2kg def R. Berridge (Northside) 74.6kg points. T. Whalley (Te Awamutu) def 73.7kg def N. Charalampous (Northside) 74kg points. Z.Z. Wallace (Te Awamutu) def L. Searle (Christchurch) 81.1kg points.

Professional – Adrian Taihia (Westmere) 74kg def Damon Johnston (Whangarei) 75.8kg ko rd 1. Paz Viejo (Sandringham) 69.8kg def Gareth Jenkins (Whangaparoa) 69kg ko rd 1. Fili Mailata (Ranui) 70.9kg def Jamie Waru (Grey Lynn) 71.8kg points. NZ light welterweight title fight: Guillermo Mosquera (Western Springs) 63.4kg and Rawiri Wiremu (Mangere) 63.4kg technical draw rd 3 (accidental clash of heads).

Photos by Dave Cameron

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Love of The Game: Sarah Teakaraanga not only organised Friday's boxing show, she fought an exhibition bout on its undercard.

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Stunning Debut: Adrian Taihia of Grey Lynn's Kings Gym scored the perfect result for his first pro fight, a first round knockout.

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Weighing In: Veteran pro boxer Jamie Waru weighs in at the Auckland Boxing Association stadium under the watchful eye of matchmaker/boxing historian Johnny Lloyd.

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Fight Game identities: Kiwi heavyweight Shane Cameron is pictued with Fili Mailata and his baby daughter.



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Quick on the draw: Writer of this report, Julian "Quick Justice" Slade, lands a combination on Dave Hallett in their professional heavyweight contest at the Auckland Boxing Association stadium.

Julian Slade is an Auckland Based Journalist specialising in urban issues and boxing.

© Scoop Media

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