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Sideline Sid had a small grin on his dial after reading reports that Olympic-bound Kiwi heavyweight boxer David Nyika is scheduled to have a professional fight on the Joseph Parker v Junior Fa undercard in February or March 2021.

I am a great fan of David Nyika, who I consider one of the best amateur boxers to have worn the black singlet, after becoming the first Boxing New Zealand pugilist to win two Commonwealth Games Gold Medals.

In times past, an amateur boxer who crossed the line to the professional ranks, immediately lost his amateur status and could never return to the lilly-white ranks.

Modern organised sport developed in the 19th century in England with sporting culture especially strong in the private schools and universities, with the upper and middle class who attended these institutions competing as amateurs.

Opportunities for the working classes to participate in sport were restricted by six-day working weeks and sport not played on the Sabbath.

As sports teams developed, some clubs would make 'broken time' payments which in effect would pay workers to take time of work, so began professional sport.

The upper classes, who dominated the sporting establishment, had plenty of self interest in blocking professional sport, which would allow the working class to successfully compete against the gentry.

Some sports dealt with the enemy of professional sport early on, with golf deciding in the late 1800's to allow competition between amateurs professionals.

Others such as rugby union and rugby league, remained bitter enemies right up to the emergence of the professional rugby game in 1995.

Professional and amateur boxing originally co-existed in New Zealand, under the auspices of the New Zealand Boxing Association formed in 1902.

The NZBA coffers were full, until a boxing organisation called the South Pacific Boxing Association decided to challenge the NZBA monopoly on professional contests in the 1970's.

Battle lines were drawn and any boxer fighting on a South Pacific card was treated as a pariah by the NZBA.

The NZBA eventually gave up the fight and concentrated on the amateur game, although the occasional NZBA professional title contest still took place.

In the last decade, the amateur boxing governing body attempted a reverse takeover of professional boxing, which was doomed from the start.

However, it has led to amateur boxers such as David Nyika, being able to switch back and forward between the amateur and professional ranks.

The best amateur boxers in New Zealand exist on the smell of an oily rag, with the ability to engage in professional contests without penalty giving our young men and women the chance to become more financially secure, while still harbouring Commonwealth and Olympic Games dreams.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
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