League chance given up for boxing
Most boys in their last year of school would jump at the offer of a place in the Warriors' development squad.
But when the call came, Patrick Mailata had to pursue his first love - he aims to become a boxing world champion.
It's a testament to the Papakura High School head boy's athletic prowess that he was in demand in both sports.
The Samoan-born 17-year-old is 1.92 metre tall and weighs 110kg, putting him in the amateur super-heavyweight division.
He's only been fighting for two years but of his 11 fights he's had seven wins including two knockouts.
The turning point and the fight he says was his worst, was his 2011 New Zealand Boxing Nationals fight against Joseph Parker, the country's superheavyweight champion at the time.
Patrick won the first two rounds but lost the fight by two points in the last 30 seconds because "I got overconfident and stopped punching", he says.
The following Saturday he was meant to try out for the Warriors' squad.
"I came home and I was so embarrassed at what happened, I was like, ‘it's time to choose what I want to be'.
"I rang up the agent and said ‘I don't want to be a Warrior'.
"That's when it started for me, and I've been in the gym every day ever since."
That fitness will come in handy when he heads to his first international tournament on October 8 - the Oceania championships in Tahiti.
He's also headed for the Youth World Boxing Championships in Thailand. Those games were meant to be held in late October but are now on hold.
Patrick's coach, who describes him as a dancer, hasn't let him post footage of his fights online because that could help the opposition.
"People in my division tend to want to win by muscle but I look at more lightweight fighters because they're a bit faster and I strive to fight like them. I figure if you can move faster, your opponent can't hit what they can't touch," Patrick says.
"Boxing is more of a mind game than just punches."
The coach has also been on his case about fitness for Thailand, where he'll be in at least 20 fights - up to three a day.
"What I've been doing is studying overseas fighters, just to see what it's like over there, because it's my first international. Everything's going fast. I've got a lot to learn in a short period of time.
"Basically for me it's an experience ride but I also want to win and come home with gold."
Choosing boxing over league was a double-edged sword, he says.
There's a greater chance of excelling as a fighter but "if you're in rugby the country's more likely to support you. I'm representing the country and yet I still have to come up with my own money".
He'll be raising $4000 for his travel costs this year but he hopes he can get sponsorship after performing well at the upcoming games.
Setting up a gym one day or going to police college are other options, but "that's my plan B," he says.
"I really, really, really want to be a world champion."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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