Four Tauranga Boxing Club members have big assignments in the coming days, as they put their reputations on the line at the re-scheduled 2020 Boxing New Zealand National Championships.

COVID-19 turned the BNZ calendar on its head, with the mid-winter North and South Island Golden Gloves held in late October 2020 and the 2020 Nationals pushed out to January 2021.

The BNZ National titles are to be held at the Te Raurapaha Arena in Porirua City from the January 20-23.

It's appropriate the 2020 Nationals are to the held at a venue that commemorates one of the great rangatira and war leaders of the New Zealand musket wars.

Te Rauparaha was known for his courage in combat, which many of the boxers at the National championships will call upon during the four days of competition in Porirua City.

Leading the four Western Bay pugilist's who will box under the banner of the Bay of Plenty Boxing Association is defending Women's 69kg title holder Ariane Nicholson.

Arguably the most improved women's boxer in the country during the last two years, the current New Zealand champion will be a hot favourite to win her second consecutive New Zealand title.

Gold Medal success at the Arafura (Darwin) Games in May 2019 was followed by a (Trans-Tasman) Super Eight title in Adelaide and her first national crown.

Twelve months ago, Ariane embarked on Olympic qualification, boxing in the Asia/Oceania tournament eventually held in Amman, Jordan, where she lost a paper-thin 3-2 split decision to a Mongolian professional boxer.

Michelle Nuku, who won the Women's 60 kilo title at the 2019 National Championships held in Hastings, has moved up a weight division to the 64kg class.

Michelle is likely to come up against the defending titleholder Cara Wharerau, who had to call upon all her resources to beat Nuku at the 2020 North Island Golden Gloves.

Two time age-group champion Hannah Walker, who will box in the Youth Female 60kg ranks, looks to have an appointment with Manawatu's Amber Foot, as the only two entries in the weight class.

Joining his three Western Bay gym mates is Te Kehu Kerr, who travels from Maketu to train with Coach Chris Walker at the TGA Box Health and Fitness centre in Tauranga.

The Maketu young man has aspirations on the Junior Heavyweight title and has a sterling record of four victories from five contests.

Standing in the corner of the four Tauranga Boxing Club fighters, is one of the best credentialed boxing coaches in the country, in Coach Walker.

During 20 plus coaching career, Walker has trained 13 New Zealand champions, three Commonwealth Games representatives and two Oceania Gold medalists.

However, Chris Walkers greatest accolade is coaching the winner of the Jameson Belt, awarded to the most scientific boxer at the National Championships.

Walker’s older brother Robbie returned from a 10 year layoff from the sport in the mid 1990’s with amazing success, in winning the Jameson Belt at the 1998 Nationals.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian