Hard work, determination and kid-glove handling are paying off for a rising amateur boxer who has more medals in his sights.
Nineteen-year-old Papakura heavyweight Patrick Mailata has been named in the New Zealand boxing squad for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow along with six other Kiwis.
The former Papakura High School head boy says being part of the Games team is a good environment for him to be in.
"It's a good stepping stone and I can tick one of the boxes in my list of goals," he says.
"I'm looking forward to experiencing being a representative for our country."
Mailata started his boxing career when a knee injury forced him off the rugby league field and into the ring to keep fit.
"I couldn't stop boxing because my father, who had been a boxer, wouldn't stop taking me to the gym."
His talent was spotted by the Rising Foundation, which helped him set and achieve his boxing goals.
The foundation believes in the potential of New Zealand's youth and encourages them to achieve the goals they choose.
Mailata became the first teenager supported by the foundation and board member Richard Jeffery began mentoring him.
The Vodafone Events Centre chief executive is now hoping his young charge will win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
"He's got a lot of talent and it's fantastic for him to get this international experience," Jeffery says.
"The big aim is to get to the Olympics, do well there and then the world is his oyster."
But it wasn't an easy start for Mailata. The first few months of boxing were punishing and he decided he'd better learn what to do so he didn't keep getting beaten up.
The teenager discovered he liked the sport and passed up offers from NRL rugby league clubs to focus on the ring.
He saw Grant Arkell training South Auckland Joseph Parker and approached him to learn the same successful techniques and skills.
Then he transferred to Papatoetoe Boxing Club where Arkell coached him.
Trainer Phil Shatford has joined Arkell in training the youngster and former league star and boxer Monty Betham is his fitness coach.
Mailata competed throughout Auckland and fought Parker in the Olympic trials while he was head boy at Papakura High. The then 17-year-old lost the fight but it was a turning point in his career.
He made the New Zealand youth team and travelled to 2012 Junior and Youth International tournament at Tahiti and won gold.
He fought at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships at Armenia in 2012 but was disqualified for putting his head lower than his Cuban opponent's belt.
By the age of 18 he had become an elite boxer and fought for New Zealand in China where he picked up a bronze medal.
Earlier this year Mailata competed at the International GeeBee Boxing Tournament in Finland, stepping into the ring the day after a punishing 48-hour flight. He ended the tournament with a credible bronze medal.
Two weeks later at the 52nd Belgrade Winner tournament he won gold. But he had his work cut out for him fighting Serbian Babic Vladin in the 91kg-plus super heavyweight division.
The Commonwealth Games will be the biggest tournament Mailata has competed in and he plans to take it by the neck and enjoy every bit of it.
"My mum and dad will probably miss me a lot and I'll probably get homesick but it's part of what I do."
Mum Fuatino and dad Tauleave say they will be right behind their son along with their church family.
Mailata's long term goal is to remain an amateur and aim for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Commonwealth Games boxing squad leaves New Zealand in early July to train in a 12-day camp in Ireland before the opening on July 23.
- Papakura Courier
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