Ex-rugby player abandons MMA for boxing

Maifea abandons MMA for boxing

TONY BIRD
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014
Maifea Maifea
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
GLOVED UP: Former Taranaki rugby rep Maifea Maifea will make his boxing debut in New Plymouth on Friday night.

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Maifea Maifea is jumping out of the cage and into the boxing ring.

The former Taranaki rugby and sevens rep has already tasted success in mixed martial arts and on Friday night will make his boxing debut on the undercard of the Asia Pacific heavyweight title fight at New Plymouth's TSB Stadium.

The 36-year-old Samoan arrived from his homeland as an 18-year-old and signed to play for the Inglewood Rugby Club.

He retired from the oval ball game at the end of last season after turning out for his "home town" side for 15 plus years as well as playing a handful of games on the wing for Taranaki A.

"I had a few stints for the As, about six, but I never really secured a permanent position there," Maifea said.

He was a regular in the Taranaki sevens team for many years and managed to squeeze in three northern hemisphere winters playing rugby for the Otley club in the United Kingdom.

Maifea said at the end of last season he had decided it was time to move on and test himself in an individual sport. That turned out to be mixed martial arts.

"I compete in a lot of grappling competitions around New Zealand," said the popular Samoan sportsman.

His partner is prominent Taranaki netballer and former Southern Sting rep and Silver Ferns triallist Erika Burgess.

The couple and their three children, Tyla, 13, Penelope, 11, and recent arrival Milan, five months, lead busy lives together.

Maifea is operations manager for Bell Block firm Pipe Tech while Erika plays premier netball for the champion Inglewood side and is also involved in the Taranaki netball academy.

Late last year, Maifea won the national MMA intermediate class title at Auckland, describing the sport as "pretty brutal stuff."

His partner has given his decision to switch to boxing the thumbs up.

"I think she prefers boxing to me doing MMA stuff," he grinned. "She struggled with me doing MMA, so to be fair to her, I decided to stop."

Maifea didn't hesitate for a moment when asked by New Plymouth pro boxer Sam Rapira if he was interested in fighting on Friday's fight night.

"I had been along to the fight night when Sam made his pro debut and thought that was pretty good. I wanted to help him out and said yep, just to get involved and see what boxing was like," he recalled yesterday.

He soon learned boxing was quite unlike cage fighting.

"The skill level is a lot different for starters and the fitness levels are a lot different. Boxing is really demanding mentally and hard to prepare for."

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Maifea is one of three boxers coach by Jacob Rapira that will represent the Box Office gym on Friday night.

Maifea takes on David Russell, formerly of New Plymouth and now based in Auckland. He also has a MMA background. "We've met socially before, but haven't competed against each other."

The main event, at what is billed Taranaki's biggest-ever boxing fight night, is the WBC Asia Pacific Heavyweight title fight between "Bronco" Chauncy Welliver of New Zealand and Billy "The Hillyard Hammer" Wright from the United States.

There will be a welcome for Welliver and Wright at the Box Office gym on Leach St in New Plymouth at 3.30pm tomorrow.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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