ON THE RISE: The Warrior Boxing team Justen Rana, Ryan Ropati, Connor Fatialofa, Yandall Fatialofa and (back row) Nathanael Bonner, Oscar Black and Noah Stewart had a successful Golden Gloves tournament.
ON THE RISE: The Warrior Boxing team Justen Rana, Ryan Ropati, Connor Fatialofa, Yandall Fatialofa and (back row) Nathanael Bonner, Oscar Black and Noah Stewart had a successful Golden Gloves tournament. Rob Williams

Warriors come out to play at Golden Gloves

BOXING: A dedicated seven-strong Warrior Boxing Gym team tested its skills at the annual Golden Gloves at a packed Acacia Ridge Hotel from August 22-25.

The Springfield-based fighters punched well above their weight at the state's premier tournament featuring 450 boxers from all around Australia and as far afield as New Caledonia, New Zealand, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Some 60 bouts were held per day in two separate rings in front of a crowd of several hundred.

In a coup for the talent-rich squad, three of its most promising fought their way to gold, including 21-year-old 91kg orthodox brawler Justen Rana, 11-year-old 40kg southpaw Oscar Black and 15-year-old 88kg orthodox Ryan Ropati.

Fighting a quarter final, semi-final and final over four days, Rana was unstoppable. He typically fights at 81kg but returned to training later this season and it was thought cutting so much weight would be detrimental as he eases back into the sport.

Diminutive Black entered a straight final and earned a unanimous decision in all three rounds.

Heavy-hitting Ropati fought a semi and final. He stopped his first opponent in two rounds and ended the title bout inside one round. Previously weighing in at 100kg, Ropati has worked relentlessly to shred the pounds and his efforts are paying dividends.

Collecting silver medals were Yandall Fatialofa and Noah Stewart.

At 91kg Fatiolofa was the only entrant in his youth class. He stepped up to face a 120kg man mountain and did not take a backward step. Despite his gallant performance, his coach threw in the towel in the second round as he became overwhelmed by his rival's sheer size.

Weighing in at under 38kg, 12-year-old Stewart excelled, only to be bested in the gold medal stoush by an athlete from the United Kingdom's Team Divine, which brought seven boxers and cleaned up with many heading home victorious.

Other Warrior Gym boxers to deliver committed performances included 21-year-old 81kg Connor Fatialofa and 11-year-old 36kg Nathanael Bonner.

Both orthodox fighters hold their heads high. Fatilofa went down in the quarter final in a split decision to the eventual champion. Battling illness, an under the weather Bonner fell in the second round of his quarter final.

A former amateur county title holder hailing from Hull City in the UK, coach Johnny Black said he was stoked with the results and this was the most talented young team he had managed since settling in Australia six years ago.

He said fighting at such a high level in front of so many spectators had been a daunting proposition but his charges had all risen to the occasion.

"It is still early days but they are all showing promise,” he said.

"They train hard every day and they are looking to further their careers. They're very focused.”

Carpenter by trade, Black, 40, started the group in November 2012 after relocating from England. Boxing is his passion and he is an AIBA Star 2 accredited coach which qualifies him to take fighters to the Olympics.

The Warrior team's top fighter is Boe Warawara. He represented Vanuatu at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and has an Olympic scholarship to help him reach the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Black said having a stable of dedicated fighters who were all capable of progressing to the professional ranks pushed each individual to break through the pain barrier.

"It is in individual sport but it does help training with others in the gym with drive,” he said.

"It pushes the others to follow suit. We just need to keep the momentum going now.”

Coming up next for the Warrior Boxing team is the Under-19 Queensland State Titles at Acacia Ridge from September 13-15.

Black expects the state champs to be a learning curve for his inexperienced competitors but said they would do their best.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they gave a few opponents a shock,” he said.

"They will be up against it but they won't be out of their depth.”

Black said the group incorporated a variety of training to break the cycle of repetition and keep the at times gruelling sport interesting.

He said coaching initially focused on setting the necessary foundations of technique and skill before moving onto increasing speed and finally achieving maximum power.

"We do a lot of drills and partner work,” he said.

"It is all related to balance.”

Black said a lot of people were deterred from trying boxing because they felt they would be pressured into fighting competitively.

He said this was absolutely not the case and people who just wanted to try their hand, improve their fitness or develop discipline and get back on the straight and narrow were welcome.

He said the sport of boxing was growing in Australia and he encouraged anyone interested to get involved.

Those interested can contact Johnny Black on 0411 629 300.

The Warrior Boxing club thanked ME24 for allowing it to use its gym.



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