Boxer David Nyika gets nod for Comm Games
Rick Ellis can still deliver a knockout blow to his top prospect David Nyika, but these days it's through a punchline, rather than a swift right hook.
The Ringside Gym head trainer built the tension when his prodigy arrived at the gym yesterday afternoon, handing him news of his Commonwealth Games bid.
"Have they talked to you yet?," he asked.
"Look, they already picked a team for the Commonwealth Games last week . . ."
Nyika didn't know where the conversation was going, and then that knockout blow came.
"So . . . you're in."
The 18-year-old light-heavyweight will be fighting at the Commonwealth Games in Glagsow in eight weeks time, and is already expecting a medal.
Nyika had been anticipating a call to confirm his spot in the team after dominating the North Island Golden Gloves at the weekend, but said it was a relief to officially find out.
"I guess it means we can relax a bit now and really focus on the Commonwealth Games," he said.
Having claimed medals at two tournaments in Europe, including one gold in Albania last month, Nyika had to win the Golden Gloves to secure a trip to Glasgow.
Win it he did, easing through his semifinal before winning a unanimous decision in the final against 25-year-old Tyson Sykes of Rotorua.
It wasn't even close as Nyika landed clean shots on his opponents and made it easy for the judges, despite feeling mentally tired after six weeks of intense competition and international travel.
"I wasn't feeling at my best, but I was happy with the performances I put in," he said.
"I felt I fought as well as I could have, and that was easily enough to get the wins. They were tough fights, but I felt I won them pretty easily."
Now the focus turns to preparation for Glasgow, and anything short of a medal will be seen as failure in Nyika's camp.
Ellis said his fighter will be there to win it, and he isn't concerned about him being one of the youngest and most inexperienced fighters heading into the Glasgow ring.
"We don't really worry about who we're fighting or any of that," Ellis said.
"We will focus on what we do, preparing Dave as well as we can, and getting him in great shape to win a medal.
"The only guys he's lost to have been World Champions from Russia and Ukraine. We haven't fought any Commonwealth guys, but that's good company we've been up against."
He knows he may come across as biased, but Ellis believes he has the best talent New Zealand has seen in a generation boxing at his gym.
"I'd count Joseph Parker in that. I think Dave is a better boxer. He's as good as we've seen in many, many years anywhere in New Zealand.
"David Tua was a knockout specialist and did well from that, Joseph Parker is a very good boxer, but I think Dave will go past both of them.
"He's the real deal."