Taranaki's top boxer Sam Rapira has received a major boost in his buildup to this year's national amateur championships.
A text last week from Sydney-based cruiserweight professional David Aloua, saying he would be in New Plymouth this week and wanted a sparring partner, could not have come at a better time.
Aloua, a member of Anthony Mundine's stable, represented New Zealand at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. He was unlucky to be disqualified on that occasion, because he was bleeding, when he was leading 7-5 against Kenyan Elly Ochola.
A former Waikato-Bay of Plenty boxer, Aloua is undefeated in seven fights since turning pro early last year, including knocking out fellow New Zealander Monty Filimaea in Hamilton this year on the Sonny Bill Williams versus Clarence Tillman undercard.
The main reason for Aloua's New Plymouth visit is to catch up with his girlfriend, Michelle Bourke, who recently moved to the area to take up a teaching position at Urenui School.
"It couldn't have come at a better time for me," Rapira said after a tough sparring session in New Plymouth yesterday.
"Just a few days ago I was saying how good things were going in my buildup to the nationals. ‘My running, my skill work with my coach, but I was just lacking a top sparring partner because my main sparring partner [Hemi Takurua] is not active at the moment.
"Then I got the text from David.
"The offer couldn't have come at a better time.
"Now that he's here, my prep is 100 per cent."
The helping hand from Aloua is a timely payback for Rapira who lent a hand to the Australian Olympic boxing team this year as a sparring partner for Damien Hooper in Canberra.
Rapira is seeking redemption at the nationals in Auckland this year after losing in the final for the past two years.
"I'm ranked No 1 in New Zealand at the moment but I don't have the New Zealand title because you can only win that at the nationals. So that's my big goal . . . to become New Zealand champion for the first time."
Rapira expects to have three fights in the light heavyweight (81kg) class at the nationals.
Aloua is confident Rapira will "go well".
"I can see that he's picked up a lot of things from the experience he's had on the international scene," he said.
"He's fit and strong and has a great work ethic. He'll go well."
Aloua, 25, is happy with his pro career so far and eager for more fights so he can prove himself worthy of a main-act spot.
He has been in the shadow of Williams, with whom he has sparred.
"He's got a lot of potential," Aloua said of Williams.
"He's a supreme athlete and he's smart and he's picking it up well.
"I'm more experienced than he is but I find him hard work.
"He's big and strong," he said.
Aloua's most recent success in the ring was in Brisbane in April when he won a split decision against Aussie Anthony McCracken to claim the Asia Pacific cruiserweight title.
McCracken had earlier gone 12 rounds against Shane Cameron when the New Zealand heavyweight had a stint at cruiserweight.
"Hopefully, I'll get on the undercard at the next Mundine fight before the end of this year," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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