Motivational boxing club under threat of eviction

  • 31/10/2008

Every week, three nights a week, a group of young, tough Aucklanders get together and fight it out - but they do not want to hurt each other.

It is a fight club designed to channel energy and aggression, and to teach children discipline and respect.

It was started by a former kick boxing champion. He and other sporting greats have spent thousands of dollars doing up a rundown building where the children can train safely, but now they have been kicked out..

 Since July, the building has been slowly and painstakingly transformed into a gym. At the helm is Lollo Heimuli, a former kickboxing champion perhaps best known now as the trainer of boxing champ Shane Cameron.

Mr Heimuli claims he was given an assurance by the landlord early on that the club could stay here long term, on the condition they were doing something positive for young people.

He and former All Black Va'aiga "Inga the Winger" Tuigamala say they are teaching these kids about respect.

"Unless we show we do care for them, they'll show their interest in something else," says Tuigamala. "Whether it be gangs whether it be drugs...we've found syringes around on the property, it's not very nice. Kids out here drunk, fight in the carpark. The whole part of this gym is to say we do care about you, we will make time for you."

Tuigamala's three sons are enrolled in classes. For 45 minutes, three nights a week, they train hard and learn how to best use their fists.

"Some of the young men come off the street and are looking forward to their first proper fight as a proper boxer," says Tuigamala.

"They are properly managed here. They don't take what they have learned out on to the streets."

But these kids will soon be back out on the streets. Just three months after moving in here, the landlord has told them to get out.

"He did say he doesn't like what we're doing here, what we're teaching here," says Heimuli.

Heimuli claims when the landlord did visit once he told him to take down the motivational signs. The club refused.

"He really needs to come here and see whole class and watch. Some people say we are being violent but we're not," he says.

"Young kid walks in here with no hope, who hasn't been encouraged and told he's a low life," says Tuigamala.

Heimuli and Tuigamala say when they moved in the building was hardly being used, and had not been for 20-odd years. It was, in their words, diabolical, rundown and unsafe.

"Things like not having water for fire, asbestos on the roof which was crumbling," says Tuigamala. "Not good for the health of young men. As you can see, water leaking everywhere, rain, the place is waiting to fall down really."

To date, they have spent more than $8,000 doing up the place, money they can ill afford.

"We are pretty much scrapping the bucket for these funds," says Tuigamala.

They only pay $200 a month for rent, but even that is a struggle, in part because most of the students cannot pay to attend classes.

We tracked down the landlord Sydney Morrow to ask him why he is kicking them out, but he had no interest in talking to us. He said this was a private building, and he simply wanted them to vacate it. When I asked if he would reimburse them for the money spent, he said he did not want to comment. When we asked if he had an issue with the club, again he did not want to comment, and that was it.

The club was initially told to be out by last Friday, but that has been extended for a few more weeks.

Heimuli says: "We will train outside on the grass if we have to. We will not leave this place. Mr Morrow he owns this place, he has the last say, he can take this place. But he can't take our heart or our integrity."

source: newshub archive