Jeremiah punching for the top
It's amazing what a positive frame of mind and good, old fashioned hard work can do - just ask Blenheim boxer Jeremiah King.
In the space of just three months, the 21-year-old heavyweight has gone from a virtual nobody in New Zealand boxing to becoming the South Island novice champ, the winner of the Canterbury Champs and effectively the No 1 ranked amateur in the Mainland.
Considering it has only been just over a year since he got back into boxing and he was a sizeable underdog in each of his two major bouts in the past three months, his current status is no mean feat. But, like the rest of his team-mates fighting out of the Bad Boy Academy gym, Jeremiah is one of those athletes who relishes being an underdog.
Before the final of the South Island novice champs in May, it had been over three years since he had fought and his opponent was highly favoured to win. Eight seconds and two punches later his rival was on the canvas and the fight was over.
"The feeling was just exhilarating, you can't explain it. You go in there and you're expecting this big fight, but it was over so fast . . . it kind of made me understand that maybe I do have a bit of potential in this sport, maybe people aren't just saying this to me. It woke me up and made me realise I need to push myself harder."
That's exactly what he did. For the first time in "forever", he started going to the gym in an effort to get closer to the high end of his division's 81kg-91kg range. This was on top of his usual training at the Bad Boy gym and it was not long before he was doing one or the other up to seven times a week.
Looking back, he is glad he was working that hard, because if he hadn't he would not have returned home from Christchurch on Sunday as the Canterbury Champs winner after claiming easily the biggest scalp of his five-fight career.
Out of the strong Burnham gym, his opponent Vasori Vanavana was the top rated amateur heavyweight in the South Island. Everyone, bar his trainer James Skipper, team-mates, family and friends, in the crowd was predicting a Vanavana victory.
Mid-way through the second of three rounds those predictions looked to be coming to fruition. After a frenetic first round, King was struggling to maintain the pace and was hit with a stinging blow to the ribs. He copped a flurry of shots to the head that resulted in two standing eight-counts, and Vanavana was well and truly on top.
But, Jeremiah was not done and, showing tremendous guts and determination, he managed to cling on before producing a superb fightback in the final round to collect a dramatic 16-15 win. These days a powerfully built 88kg, Jeremiah said the feeling when he was announced as the victor was "nothing short of amazing".
"My whole family was there, the whole Bad Boy crew, my girlfriend. After what happened in the second round I wasn't really expecting to win and I actually didn't think I had so when he called my name everyone just jumped up and went crazy.
"My mindset going into the fight was ‘I'm going to win' because I'm always positive. You can't go into the ring thinking this guy is this or that, you have to tell yourself you're in there to win and destroy your opponent."
Born in the small North Island town of Ohau and raised in Tauranga until he and his family moved to Blenheim when he was eight, Jeremiah started boxing, along with his older brother Isaac, at the insistence of dad Fred when he was 10. It was not until a couple years later, though, that it became more serious. He lost his first ever fight, ironically at the same Woolston Workingmen's Club venue where he competed on the weekend, at the age of 14, but bounced back to win his next two bouts.
However, by the time he was 16 boxing had drifted out of his life. Not only had rugby, where he was a Marlborough rep at under-14 and under-16 level and had one year in the Marlborough Boys' College 1st XV, become much more prominent, he admits he had two or three years "messing about being a teenager".
The lack of a proper boxing facility did not help, either, but when Skipper opened the Bad Boy gym nearly two years ago it was not long before James lured Jeremiah back.
Since then he has gone from strength to strength and last weekend's result is a testament to just how far he has come in a short space of time. And although it may not have been fun at the time, the laid-back Bad Boy reckons he got far more out of his most recent fight than he did from the eight-second KO in May.
"This fight has taught me I need a lot more fitness. I thought I was fit, but I'm not . . . there's so much I learnt from that fight because of the way it turned out. You don't learn much from throwing two punches."
Someone who enjoys listening to music and chilling out with mates and his girlfriend Samantha in his spare time, Jeremiah said his dad Fred and trainer James have both been highly influential parts of his career. The support he gets from the rest of his family and friends has been huge as well, while being someone who loves the training and the physical outlet that boxing provides has also been crucial.
Fred and elder siblings Maia and Mhicca, both fine sportspeople in touch and rugby and netball and touch, respectively, now live in Perth. At this stage, Jeremiah is planning on joining them in Australia in the not too distant future and he believes there he can push his boxing to an even higher level. He is dreaming big, too.
"My long-term goal is to go to Rio and fight at the Olympics in four years' time. I'd be 25 by then and it would be a dream."
With a natural air of confidence, big aspirations and his rapid rise to prominence in the past six months, don't be surprised if you start hearing the name Jeremiah King a lot more in the future.
WEEKLY SPORTS STAR
Name: Jeremiah King.
Born: Ohau (a small town south of Levin), 1991.
Educated: Welcome Bay Primary (Tauranga), Bohally, Marlborough Boys' College.
Earliest sporting hero: Jonah Lomu. I use to watch his McDonald's adverts and wonder to myself if I ate a Big Mac could I push over buildings?
Latest sporting hero: Usain Bolt. Fastest man on the planet, nuff said.
Must-watch TV programme: I generally try to stick away from the couch, forming a schedule around a TV programme wouldn't fit my routine. I've had my days of Dragon Ball-Z.
Must-have food: Dominos pizza. Gives me strong Popeye-like muscles! Haha!
What's hot on your MP3 player: I love my tunes. I appreciate all genres, but what thumps most in my ears is the pure sound of electro-house music. Stuff gets me pumped.
Favourite holiday spot: Hanmer, pure relax.
Superstitions: Haha, don't get me started. If I could explain in short, 'Gods are in the Neurons'.
Pet hates: My cat Overlord sheds like a boss.
Fashion crime: I get a tad too comfy in my trackeys!
Favourite sporting moment: The warmth of my supporters and crowd after winning my last fight. Hard work does pay off.
Worst sporting moment: I look at all sporting moments positively, even the worst of times. Perseverance is key.
In five years I'll be: On TV representing New Zealand, then there's an excuse for being on the couch.
The Marlborough Express