He's trained alongside Anthony Mundine and recently sparred with Australian champion Blake Caparello but returning home could be the making of Kiwi cruiserweight David Aloua.
After three and a half years in Sydney, Aloua has moved back to Thames ranked 15th by the WBO and WBA - the same standing Joseph Parker holds with the WBO in the heavyweights. That's thanks to a fourth-round knockout of Commonwealth Games gold medallist and previously 15-0 Australian Brad Pitt in April.
With an 11-1 record, Aloua has linked with legendary trainer Lolo Heimuli, currently guiding Kiwi UFC star Mark Hunt.
"All his fighters are renowned," Aloua said of Heimuli, a 30-year veteran of the fight game.
"When you get in with one of his fighters, you know you're in for a tough night."
While his fiance, a teacher, works towards her registration, the 27-year-old is juggling boxing with a role at Watson Engineering and Equippers Thames. That schedule may soon change, though. Interest has been flooding in from overseas promoters and doors will continue to swing open with Sky Arena now signing him on.
In a homecoming bout he'll defend his WBO Asia Pacific and WBA Pan African titles against Australian Daniel Baff, ranked 14th by the WBA and with a 16-2 record. That fight is pencilled in for late November on the next Sky Arena Super8 card, an eight-man cruiserweight elimination series.
"Signing with Sky, it gives me a network behind me. They've got the connections," he said.
"It's also a defence because there are a lot of snakes in boxing. It's one less worry. I can focus on training and fighting. We've got a bit of momentum after the last fight. It's still early in my career. I want to keep growing as a fighter and work my way up the ranks next year."
Aloua amassed a 41-fight amateur career which included 23 wins by KO and a Commonwealth Games appearance in 2010. His pro career, though, has been built on raw ability, without any fully committed support network.
He's absorbed valuable lessons from Mundine and southpaw Caparello and, more importantly, admits now is the time to make the most of his talent. This platform cannot be wasted.
New Zealand's boxing scene has evolved swiftly during his time across the Tasman and Aloua realises he needs to capitalise on the opportunity before him.
"It's the best it's been in a long-time," he said.
- Sunday Star Times
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