By Helen King
A group of young Auckland boxers have headed to Australia to take on fighters from across Oceania in the Queensland Golden Gloves.
For the past six weeks the team of eleven fighters trained seven days a week at City Boxing in Kingsland, sometimes twice a day. The gruelling sessions of sparring, conditioning and speed work are done under the watchful eye of head coach Lolo Heimuli, the man behind MMA superstar Mark Hunt and rising heavyweight prospect Hemi ‘the Heat’ Ahio.
The team has already tasted success this year, with two fighters placing second and third in their age divisions at the National Amateur Championships.
For a young and inexperienced team their early successes indicate a promising future for these fighters.
For some the tournament in Australia will be their first taste of a competitive boxing environment, but team member Molitoni Wolfgramm comes from a pedigree of boxers.
Wolfgramm is the nephew of legendary Tongan heavyweight Paea Wolfgramm who won silver at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Starting at the age of nine years old, Wolfgramm has developed into one of the country's best young prospects, currently ranked third for youth in the 75kg division.
The 17-year-old represented Tonga in the Amateur World Champs in Russia last year, an experience that’s helped prepare him for the upcoming challenge in Queensland,
"The experience in Russia was great, I learned a lot from that." he says.
"I learned a lot from some of the other countries fighters, some new techniques.
"It's given me more confidence, going out to the worlds and fighting people who've had over 100 fights, it gives you the confidence when you go to a place like Australia.
Wolfgramm has a high level of discipline and dedication for a young person and he credits the support of his family: “They are everything. I owe them a lot."
"I do my best to not take everything for granted for what they do for me in boxing terms."
Assistant coach Mokai Paraha, a season fighter himself, says they want to foster the talent of young fighters like Wolfgramm and aim for them to represent New Zealand in the near future.
Head coach Heimuli is confident the young boxer has the talent to push him further.
"They held their own in Russia." he says.
"This tournament [Queensland] is of a much lower standard than in Russia, now they get to box kids with the same level of experience, so I'm really excited."
Boxing is an individual sport. Once a fighter is in the ring it comes down to the hours of training and raw courage to get them through the rounds. But it is also important to have a team behind them and that’s something these fighters have.
Lachlan Flynn joined the City Boxing team for training in recent weeks and credits the respect the fighters have for each other for helping calm his nerves before the tournament.
"All the tournaments I have been to before, it was just me fighting from my own gym," he says.
"It takes your mind off the whole new level (team environment) and it's good fun."
The young men and women of the team will come up against tough competition in Queensland but they know as long as they have trained hard they will fight easy.