Before they can get in the ring, the dozen boys who have shown up for the first class of the Cannons Creek Boxing Academy have to learn the rules.
Most of them centre on respect for themselves and others.
"We're teaching them to look happy, to look other people in the eye and shake their hands," said head coach Latu Talu, 23.
The gym is an offshoot of boxer Billy Graham's Naenae Boxing Academy, which has been credited with cutting crime rates in the area since it opened in 2005, and is a pilot to see if the model can work in other places - without Graham at the front of the class.
Talu, a Naenae Boxing Academy success story himself, knows it's a big responsibility. When he was offered the job, the first thing he asked was "Are you sure?"
"I believe in myself in the ring, but when it comes to being a role model for the kids, all I can do is my best."
When he joined the Naenae academy at age 15, Talu was sceptical of Graham but stayed long enough to hear him out. "Real slowly I got to know him a bit. I started to realise he really knows more than anybody else I know, about boxing and about life."
The gym gave him a focus and boxing taught him a lot about life. "There's no escape. There's no way of going 'I give up', because you're going to look like a fool . . . if you don't push yourself you're going nowhere, but if you push yourself to your limit you'll go far. You have to train as hard as you can."
The classes are open to intermediate aged children only, but may expand to others in the future.
- The Dominion Post
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