'Terror' to turn pro on home turf
Sam "The Terror" Rapira will launch his professional boxing career in his home town in April.
The New Plymouth light heavyweight will take on Auckland's Scott Taliauli in the main event of Naki Knockouts - a pro-am tournament at the TSB Stadium on Saturday, April 6.
It will be the first time for more than 30 years that a professional boxing event has been held in the province.
After a successful amateur career in the ring, Rapira is looking forward to the challenges of professional boxing.
"It's like starting a new sport," Rapira said yesterday after a sparring session.
"The pace is different, the tactics are different and the scoring is different."
Rapira said he got his ring name from his New Zealand team-mates during his amateur career.
"It's a bit of a tradition that you are given a ring name when you go from amateur to pro and it's cool that the name has come from guys who I have spent a lot of time with over the years," said last year's No 2 ranked light heavyweight amateur and New Zealand team captain.
Rapira has signed up with Auckland's Lollo Heimuli, best known as trainer of New Zealand heavyweight Shane Cameron.
The New Plymouth fitness consultant said that, in pro-boxing, it was crucial to hurt your opponent rather than adopt a scientific approach about scoring points, as is the case in the amateur ranks.
Rapira's maiden professional fight against Taliauli is over four, three-minute rounds.
Taliauli has a two-win four-loss record in his professional career and is coming off a year-long break from competition.
"I've seen him fight once, when he was still an amateur," Rapira said.
"He's tough and pretty rugged and throws a lot of hooks and uppercuts. He's not a scientific boxer; he's there more to do the damage and is a crowd-pleaser."
Rapira said he was grateful for the tremendous level of support from his family and the Taranaki public on turning professional.
He was excited to be launching his pro career in the province, something he promised when he announced he was turning professional late last year.
"This is a big show and will be a big step up from the sellout amateur event we hosted in New Plymouth at the YMCA gym last year," he said.
The other top-billing fight on the 10-fight card features Taranaki pro heavyweight Hemi "The Hardman" Takurua, who takes on Waikato pro Dean Garmonsway.
Garmonsway has a two-win, four-loss pro record, three of his losses coming against higher-ranked athletes Joseph Parker, Clarence Tillman II and former NRL hardman Jason Williams.
Takurua, 39, will be having his third pro fight, having won his first two by knockout in Auckland last year. In the interim, Takurua has been laid low, first with a broken nose and early this year he had a four-day stint in hospital with kidney stones.
"That knocked me around a bit," he said.
A gib-stopper by trade, Takurua is rough-necking on the oil rigs off the Taranaki coast.
He said he had been working hard getting back in fighting trim and expected to lean down from his current 98kg.
Completing the round of professional bouts will be the Taranaki light-middleweight duo of Nick Toa and Daniel Maxwell, who will face each other.
The fight-night programme will be run over four hours and include three amateur bouts and four corporate fights, featuring Taranaki business and sporting personalities.
The contenders in the corporate fights have already been training for several weeks, according to Rapira. The matchups and the workplace or sport they represent are: Craig Macfarlane (Ozone Coffee) v Mark Louie (Our Place); Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (rugby) v Andrew Castles (rugby league); Kerry Simeon (Crowded House) v Stacey Lamb (Club 55); Peter Napanoy (City Fitness) v Rory O'Connor (Rampage Fitness).
Taranaki Daily News