Blackbourn boxing clever in pro ranks

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 10/08/2012
Joe Blackbourn
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
BOXING SMART: Joe Blackbourn.

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Joe Blackbourn was supposed to be in London tonight rather than trading blows with Auckland southpaw Dickey Peirera at the Lower Hutt Town Hall.

So it's a logical step to think the first punches of Blackbourn's professional boxing career will have the sting of disappointment, even bitterness, at his change of fortunes.

The 26-year-old's Olympic dream ended in March when he lost to Australia's Jesse Ross, the culmination of an ill-fated buildup that saw him train with his broken hand in a cast.

He returned to New Zealand and began to take stock of a long amateur career - 98 fights, five national titles and a Commonwealth Games.

"At first the plan was to push on to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but two weeks after I got back I had a really rough week and I ended up in hospital with an infected arm," he said yesterday.

"I was lying there away from the wife and kids again and it really put where I was in perspective . . . It had been really telling on my wife and kids being away, it was becoming a real drain.

"Amateur tournaments often run over a week and in all kinds of weird countries. Don't get me wrong, the travel was awesome and being away with a New Zealand team, I loved that. But I knew I had to put my focus more on my family now."

HE BEGAN weighing up all the lost work hours and what his children, son Keahn, 7, and daughter Reagan, 5, were missing out on and the pro ranks started to make sense.

"I'd have a couple of months where I'd save a bit of money and then I'd get a call saying there was a trip coming up and you need to pay $2000," he said. "I'd be thinking, ‘I can't turn the trip down, but at the same time I can't afford it'. My club helped me out a lot, but you go with no spending money and it was quite hard.

"I realised I felt like I'd come to the end of the amateur stuff and I was no longer really motivated and excited about it."

And so he shelved the disappointment of the Olympics and began plotting the next chapter of a career that he hopes will bring balance and cash into his life.

The plan is to fight five times over the next 18 months, with most of the fights in New Zealand, before looking toward Australia. He's not expecting to get rich and won't bank a million for tonight's super middleweight bout, but with more time for family and his plastering business, he'll be richer either way.

"I want to stay active, keep the fights going. Inactivity seems to be the worst thing," he said. "It's about finding the right fights. I won't be taking fights just because someone rings up and says fight this Aussie guy and you'll get $5000.

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"A lot of Kiwi guys go over just for the money and get a hiding. I'm in it for the money, but I'll be smart."

In his corner he'll have long time mentor and coach Russell Oliver of the Bellvue club, a partnership that's been going since Blackbourn was 12.

And adding to his confidence this week is the presence of New Zealand professional heavyweight Joseph Parker, who will support his mate at his first professional weigh-in today.

Blackbourn, who expects to weigh in at about 75kg, said he knew little about his opponent Peirera, other than he'd had seven professional fights and would jab with his right hand.

The pro card will also feature light heavyweights John Roil and Richard Hackney, and rookie middleweight Beau O'Brien, of Napier, against Wellington's James O'Conner, as well as 10 amateur fights.

- The Dominion Post

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