Pro career awaits talented boxer Rapira
It was a battered and bruised Sam Rapira who was named Taranaki Maori Sportsperson of the Year in New Plymouth on Saturday night.
The New Plymouth boxer spent most of last week in Auckland as a sparring partner for New Zealand professional heavyweight Shane Cameron.
Cameron is preparing for his IBO world cruiserweight title bout with Australian Danny Green in Melbourne on November 21 and called on Rapira, who recently turned pro, to help in his preparation for the fight.
"I'm happy my face is still intact, but my body has taken a pounding," Rapira said after winning the supreme award.
Rapira earlier took out the sportsman of the year award.
"I was hoping to win my section, but this is crazy, I wasn't expecting this," he said, holding up the overall winner's trophy.
"What an awesome night."
The 29-year-old film projectionist promised the capacity crowd of more than 200 he was going places.
"The best is to come. My goal now is to win a world title."
Rapira is finalising arrangements to turn professional and said if he got his way his first pro fight would be in New Plymouth.
He said his sparring sessions with Cameron gave him a taste of pro-style boxing.
"It's a different pace and different goals and not about hitting and getting out of there, it's about hurting your opponent.
"It was a really good learning curve for me and made me realise I can box at that level. Shane told me my style was good for pros so I was really happy with that."
Rapira experienced the highs and lows in his sport this year as the No 1-ranked light heavyweight in New Zealand.
He showed his class by beating the Australian champion and claimed a bronze medal at the Serbia international Olympic qualifying tournament, beating the French and Hungarian champions in the process.
His big disappointment was missing out on a spot in the New Zealand Olympic Games team.
New Plymouth surfer Thandi Tipene was awarded the sportswoman of the year award.
The reigning New Zealand Open women's champion, Tipene was runner-up on the New Zealand pro circuit and finished fourth in the prestigious ASP tour.
An interior/spatial designer, who writes a column in the Taranaki Daily News, Tipene is in training and focused on defending her national title this summer.
"At the moment I'm on a break from competition apart from local events that I enter," the 26-year-old said.
Her next pro circuit event is in January. "So it's just a matter of getting in the water and training for that competition.
"This year I hope to win a title again and hopefully go one better than last year and win the New Zealand pro circuit."
International competition is also a possibility. "It's more a matter of getting my sponsor behind me and looking at doing some international events next year."
Tipene's husband, Batchelor, also a talented surfer, was a finalist in the sportsman of the year category.
The Taranaki rugby team's successful year earned Colin Cooper the coach of the year award.
The junior sportsman title went to rugby league's Curtis Rona, with the junior female title shared by Gayle Broughton (touch, rugby, sevens) and Zoe Hobbs (athletics).
The Aotea under-19 Maori netball team won the Maori sports team of the year award.
It was a memorable year for the team, finishing second in the national Aotearoa championships and first equal in the Aotearoa Maori Oranga tournament.
New Plymouth's Greg Davis was named administrator and game official of the year for his work with rugby league teams, including the New Zealand under-16 side.
A special commendation was made to the late Fabian Niwa, best known for his work in introducing the kenpo karate and defence system to the region.
While the spotlight was on the athletes, a highlight of the evening was an inspirational and insightful address by Silver Ferns netball coach Waimarama Taumaunu, of Wellington.
Sportsman of the year: Sam Rapira (boxing) Sportswoman of the year: Thandi Tipene (surfing) Coach of the year: Colin Cooper Administrator/game official: Greg Davis (rugby league) Maori sports team of the year: Aotea under-19 Maori netball team Junior sportsman of the year: Curtis Rona (rugby league) Junior sportswoman of the year: Gayle Broughton (touch, rugby, sevens) and Zoe Hobbs (athletics) Special Commendation: Fabian Niwa (martial arts) Voluntary contribution and service to Maori in sport and recreation: Tina Thompson-Dockery (rugby league) Taranaki Maori sportsperson of the year Sam Rapira
Taranaki Daily News