Memories of a sports nut

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Memories came flooding back when Sideline Sid was ringside at TGA Box on Waihi Road on Sunday, to watch regional training for the up-coming Boxing New Zealand amateur championships to be held in Rotorua 12-15 September. 

During the early 1990's, it became an early spring ritual to drive son number-one to Rotorua for CNI Boxing Association training on Sunday's.

As a spare pair of hands, Sid was quickly press-ganged into timekeeping duties. 

Little has changed in the intervening years, as the best young pugilists from throughout the Bay of Plenty went through their paces at TGA Box.

A quick series of greetings on arrival, was followed by the Bay of Plenty BA and CNI coaches outlining the days training schedule. 

A constant companion at the annual regional training days are a set of scales, as the boxers work towards at making the weight at the Nationals weigh-in.

The aim is to be just under the limit in their chosen division, with a real penalty of giving away a number of kilos if forced to move up a division.

Quiet encouragement flowed from the coaches at the corner of ring as the boxers worked through their moves.

Reflexion was on minds of the days participants as they exited the training day, with the need to absorb the coaching instructions to have success in the heat of battle in Rotorua. 

The National Boxing Championships format has changed little since the first title contests in Christchurch in 1902.

The opening morning is dominated by the weigh-in with massive interest in the draw for each division. 

Boxing championships have always had a draw out of the hat, which sometime produces sometimes gasps of surprise as the two best boxers are drawn to square off in the preliminary action. 

For the first time since 1904, Rotorua will host back to back National championships. 

While the format remains unchanged from the early Nationals the championship, the landscape today is a completely different beast. 

The 1902 nationals comprised just four weight divisions of heavyweight, middleweight, lightweight and featherweight, with the bantamweight division added in 1903.

The lighter weight divisions reflected a country of men of much smaller stature than today. 

Indications received from the Rotorua tournament organisers are that the heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight senior ranks could have as many as ten or twelve entries.

There are likely to be just a handful of entries in the lightweight (Under 60 kilo) and below classes. 

However, the real change in the last 20 years was the introduction of women's boxing at the Taupo Nationals in 1997.

Just two female bouts two decades ago has turned into a mini-explosion where over a quarter of the boxers at the Rotorua Nationals will be female. 

Up to 160 of the best amateur boxers in the country will be chasing gold medal success in the Sulphur City.

With many of the competitors participating in age -group competition, the challenge for Boxing New Zealand is to keep them in the sport when they graduate to open class competition after turning eighteen years of age. 

For this writer, the values and lessons learnt in the ring that our young men and women take into later life, are the real benefits of the sport of boxing.


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