Ukraine set for knockout
A young Feilding boxer with a world of promise will travel to Ukraine next month to represent New Zealand.
Shaun Heap, 15, has been selected to contest the under-60-kilogram class in the AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships hosted in the Ukrainian city of Astana.
Shaun is a boy of few words but his actions in the ring speak volumes.
Just ask fellow New Zealand representative Keegan Jones, who Shaun defeated in their July bout in Wellington.
Exposure at a tournament of this calibre is an outstanding opportunity and is traditionally the first step towards Olympic and professional careers, an aspiration Shaun has harboured for some time.
"Hopefully I can go to the Olympics one day; it is my dream to fight for medals and then go professional."
Shaun models his style on the powerful Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez who is the current WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine light-middlewight champion.
Alvarez is described as the next big prodigy in world boxing, so makes a fitting hero for young Shaun.
"I would like to fight like he does, how he breaks down an opponent," he says.
Shaun is training relentlessly at Feilding's Schuster Boxing Gym with a rigorous regime of sparring, weight training and calisthenics priming him for his first taste of international competition.
"It's pushing me to the limit," he says.
Shaun's mother, Gwen, is a huge supporter and was immensely proud when his selection letter arrived in the mail.
"I didn't know what to do. Shaun thought I was joking when I told him the news, he wouldn't believe me.
"Shaun hasn't even been on an aeroplane before and then all of a sudden we were on Google looking at how far away Ukraine is."
However, with travel comes cost, to the tune of about $5100.
Public support has helped the Heap family raise funds with sausage sizzles, raffles and charitable auctions starting to fill the coffers.
With $4000 raised, the Manawatu District Council is looking to get on board with the project.
Boxing runs in the family for the Heaps with Shaun's older brothers Matthew and Carl holding national titles in the past.
Carl Heap was once considered for Olympic selection but gave the sport away and is now working in Hawke's Bay.
When asked what excited him about the tournament, Shaun had only one thing to say:
"I'm trying to knock out my opponent in every match."
The AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships are held between September 5 and 15.