Southland has a national boxing champion it can lay claim to.
Fifteen-year-old Aaron Lay was the toast of Southland boxing on Saturday when he won the junior 60kg national title at the New Zealand Youth Boxing Championships in Hamilton.
Lay had been competing this year in the junior 64kg division with mixed success. His coach, Russell Newton, felt if Lay could drop down to the 60kg division, that may give the Gore High School student the best chance of success at the national level, and that is just what unfolded.
Lay beat Te Matau Flanagan, from Canterbury Metro, on his way to the final before dispatching Hayden Amon, from Central North Island, in the final in a unamious decision.
When he arrived back at the Invercargill Airport yesterday, the quietly spoken and humble 15- year-old didn't give away just how excited he was at being crowned a national champion but hinted he was pretty content with what he had done.
It is these types of results that have given him a passion for boxing.
"It's just the reward you can get from it; it's a good sport," he said.
To add to it all, Lay had a couple of well-known and unexpected well-wishers at the Invercargill Airport yesterday to greet him and congratulate the Southland teenager on his New Zealand title.
One of New Zealand's most high-profile boxers, Shane Cameron, had already arrived at Invercargill just half an hour before Lay as part of Cameron's promotional tour for his fight against American Brian Minto in Auckland on Saturday night.
Cameron stuck around to congratulate Lay and have a photo with the up-and-coming boxer.
High-profile trainer Kevin Barry was also in attendance, with Barry training Minto for the fight on Saturday night.
Barry presented the 15-year-old with a signed photo of New Zealand rising heavyweight star Joseph Parker.
Southland also had Joshua Nielsen at the national championships, competing in the 69kg division.
Unfortunately, Nielsen lost his first-round matchup.
- © Fairfax NZ News