The history of national boxing championships

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Coronavirus has played havoc with New Zealand's sporting calendar, with a myriad of events and competitions disrupted and cancelled.

One postponed event that Sideline Sid had penciled in to attend, was the 2020 Boxing New Zealand National Championships that were to be staged in Porirua City.

This has now been rescheduled for January 2021.

The pinnacle event for sports in New Zealand is their respective national championships, where the best get to shine and also provide a springboard for New Zealand representation.

The Western Bay of Plenty have hosted the New Zealand amateur boxing championships on just one occasion, when the country’s top pugilist's came to QE2 Centre to decide the championship titles in 1991.

Boxing in Tauranga goes back many decades and it's likely that the British militia stationed here in the 1860's engaged in a little fisticuffs in their off duty hours.

During the first half of the twentieth century, there weren't any bigger sporting events in New Zealand than professional boxing title fights.

From the start of the first recorded professional title contest in 1905, crowds in their thousands would flock to venues throughout the country to watch the professional title contests.

Nearly a century ago, the Tauranga Town Hall played host to a New Zealand Welterweight title bout on the evening of December 28, 1921.

The title fight between Jock Graham from Wellington and Sailor Brown, was a big deal in the sleepy coastal village and would have attracted a sell-out crowd.

On the line was a stake of one hundred pounds, which was a considerable amount of money a century ago.

Both men brought impressive credentials to the ring - Jock Graham having won over 20 professional contests, while Sailor Brown was the champion of the fourth fleet.

Interest throughout the Dominion was intense, with daily newspapers from the Northern Advocate in the far north to papers in the far south of the country, reporting the result of the title contest.

A Press Association report of the fight stated "A boxing tournament was held in Tauranga last night, with the principal event being the professional match of fifteen rounds for the welterweight championship of New Zealand between Sailor Brown of Invercargill and Jock Graham from Auckland. Graham sent Brown to the mat twice in the fifth round and knocked him out as soon as the sixth was opened".

The bout remains the only professional title contest to have been staged in Tauranga.

The star of the 1991 National Championships in Tauranga was a then 18-year-old David Tua, who remarkably won the third of his trifecta of senior heavyweight titles while still a teenager.

The Auckland youngster defeated Kipa Tasifa, who was no slug in the ring reaching number three in the world amateur ranking, a spot that David Tua also held.

The 1991 senior titles had the added bonus of 1992 Olympic berths on the line, with Trevor Shailer, Sililo Figota and David Tua, going on to wear the kiwi uniform into the Barcelona Olympic ring.

The 1992 Olympics focused worldwide attention on Tua, who won a bronze medal to add to a medal of the same colour, at the 1991 AIBA World Championships.

Much has been written of the deeds of David Tua in his long professional journey, suffice to say, that many boxing writers rank David as one of the biggest punchers never win a world heavyweight title.


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