Sports correspondent & historian
Tauranga Boxing Club head coach Chris Walker further enhanced his credentials as one of the best amateur boxing coaches in the country, after the 2019 Boxing New Zealand National Championships concluded in Hastings on Saturday evening.
The four members of the Tauranga Boxing Club team returned home with two gold medals and a silver medallion, and the prestige of winning two elite women’s New Zealand titles.
Ariane Nicholson, who is arguably the most improved elite women's boxer in the country, put the icing on the cake on a superb season when she won the New Zealand Women's 69kg championship title.
Nicholson put on two dominant performances in Hastings, winning both her bouts by unanimous decision.
The Western Bay of Plenty pugilist extended her season record to a remarkable 12 straight victories, which included international success at the Arafura Games in Darwin and a Super Eight title in Adelaide South Australia.
Michelle Nuku is another to have made huge strides under the tutelage of Coach Walker this year.
She engaged in two battles in the Women's 60kg ranks, where she emerged with her first major success by way of two 4-1 decisions.
Youth boxer Hannah Walker was on the wrong end of a split decision in the 69kg title decider, in a bout that was in doubt until the final bell.
The two New Zealand titles in Hastings extends Chris Walker's New Zealand Championship titles to 11 senior championship crowns and two age-group successes.
Walker's run of success kicked off over 20 years ago, when older brother Robbie came to Chris, who was training out of the Rotorua Boxing Gym in the Sulphur City, and said he wanted to come out of a six year retirement to box at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
Back to back New Zealand Light Welterweight titles, the Jameson Belt (most scientific senior boxer) and selection for Commonwealth Games, ticked the boxes for Robbie Walker, who then headed back to permanent retirement.
Chris Walker established the Tauranga boxing gym in 2001.
There are no easy roads to success in boxing, with hour upon hour of dedication and commitment in training required to bring success in the ring.
While Justin Potter would go on to win two Welterweight National titles, after relocation to Auckland for university studies, Potter’s Oceania Gold Medal in 2005 was the start of the spoils of elite combat that Tauranga Boxing Club fighters would bring back to their Western Bay headquarters.
Kelly Woolrich established herself as one of the best Kiwi women’s boxers in the country a decade ago, winning two New Zealand titles and earning the Bobby Johnson Cup for the most scientific women’s boxer in 2009 for good measure.
An Oceania gold medal in 2007 illustrated her success in international competition.
Heavyweight David Aloua-Rogers and Anthony Taylor, who fought in the Light Welterweight ranks, both represented New Zealand at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, after winning two New Zealand titles apiece under the mentorship of Coach Walker.
Another to experience National’s success was Katie Flyger who won the Women’s Welterweight crown in 2010.
Ariane Nicholson, Michele Nuku and Hannah Walker, along with Bryce Raynes - who was the fourth member of the local boxing team in Hastings - represent the current future of the Tauranga Boxing Club.
While accolades flow when boxing clubs experience success, the victories are built upon the boxing knowledge and mentoring skills of the boxing coaches throughout the country.
They are the first to the gym and the last to leave on training nights and suffer the regular disappointments of promising boxers who find the going too tough and simply throw in the towel.
However, the rewards, such as Chris Walker's two new National crowns in Hastings, keep coaches in the game for the next potential champion that may walk in the gym door in the future.