Taranaki sets Valentine's heavyweight date
What is billed as Taranaki's biggest boxing night will be staged in New Plymouth next month.
A World Boxing Council sanctioned heavyweight title fight between United States-based Kiwi boxer Chauncey Welliver and American heavyweight Billy Wright be a first for the province.
Up for grabs over 12 rounds will be the WBC Asia Pacific title.
Chauncey, 30, has a 55 win, 7 loss 5 draw record, while Wright, 49, has 42 wins from 46 fights. Both fighters are regulars in the ring and rated outside the world's top 100 heavyweights according to ring authority boxrec.com, though it reports Wright's record includes defeats in the 1990s to Tony Tucker, Frans Botha and Michael Moorer.
Professional boxing returned to Taranaki in April last year when Sam Rapira made his professional debut.
Event organiser Ashley Smith said the offer to host the event followed the WBA liaising with the New Zealand Boxing Federation and came completely out of the blue.
He said securing the fight was reward for the work put in by a team of people over the last two years in reestablishing professional boxing in the province. The date clashed with the Nines league tournament and the pressure on venues and accommodation worked in New Plymouth's favour.
"The title fight had to be held in the Asia Pacific region so when New Zealand picked up the nomination they then offered us the chance to host it," Smith said.
"The NZNBF have worked with us on previous events and Taranaki is being rewarded for the quality of those events and the strong local support we get.
"Reg Williams [NZBF boss] has been impressed with what we've done down here in a short time so it had their backing.
"It's an exciting opportunity and a chance for us to network with other boxing organisations, Smith said.
He said another upside is that these are contacts which Sam Rapira will need as his professional career develops.
The most likely venue for the fight night is New Plymouth's TSB stadium.
Smith said the plan for the February 14 event is to run a full card of eight bouts - five professional fights and three local corporate match-ups with Sam Rapira competingon the main undercard.
"We do need a significant level of support to make it work and we are pleased to announce that New Plymouth company Chain Resources have come on board as the major sponsor," Smith said.
Chain Resources representative Andre Peri said the company had had an association with Sam Rapira for some time and saw the event as another step in the development of boxing in the region.
Smith said that a full house will get Taranaki recognised as a region which can successfully host large events.
He said it is a genuine title fight with both boxers desperate for the ranking points which go with the Asia Pacific title.
Corporate tables can be booked through the TSB Stadium or the Box Office Boxing gym in under Super Cheap Auto, on Leach St, in New Plymouth.
Ticket prices will start from $24.50 for adults and $15 for children.
Taranaki Daily News