Three hulking American boxers were given a warrior's welcome to New Plymouth yesterday.
Professionals Billy Wright, Chauncy Welliver and Freddie Miller arrived in town for tomorrow night's event, which headlines with Taranaki's first professional boxing heavyweight title fight.
The boxers were welcomed to the Box Office boxing gym with a waiata, several speeches and a rousing haka from a specially picked group of New Plymouth Boys' High School students.
Hiwawa Kahu, 16, who led the haka, will beging training at Box Office soon.
As well as being a good way to let out some anger, boxing helped self-discipline, he said.
"There's the fitness side of it and learning what my weaknesses are and my strengths."
The main event at TSB Stadium tomorrow is Welliver and Wright's contest for the WBC Asia Boxing Council title, as well as seven other bouts, three professional and four corporate. New Plymouth pro Sam Rapira's fight against Waikato's Kashif Mumtaz is the main undercard bout.
Miller will face off against emerging New Zealand cruiserweight title contender Asher Derbyshire.
Wright had rented a car and driven down from Auckland himself to enjoy the countryside.
He had already seen plenty of Taranaki.
"I've been up and down the beach walkway, had lunch at the Federal and yesterday I went up to see the volcano.
"It was a decent walk."
Last year Wright travelled to South America to retain his heavyweight crown and, although he enjoyed the Bolivian hospitality, he was happy to be in New Zealand.
"Bolivia is a terrible country. I feel spared to be here, it's beautiful."
He was brimming with confidence about tomorrow's fight.
"It's probably fair to say Chauncy has never faced someone as strong as me, he'll find that out on Friday night."
Welliver said he enjoyed the Maori welcome because he had native American roots himself.
He was calm but confident about getting in the ring with Wright.
"I know Billy, we're friends, but this is a game. If I'm playing chess I'll whip his ass in that too."
Welliver said Sam Rapira was becoming a familiar name in American boxing circles.
"I truly think he's the next big thing to come out of New Zealand and you guys have him in your gym."
Event organiser Ashley Smith said the internationally flavoured fight was a good opportunity for Taranaki to stamp its name on boxing.
"It's not often you get to host international boxers, particularly in the provinces. "If we put on a good event we're more likely to host future events."
Tickets for the International Fight Night at TSB Stadium tomorrow start from $24.50 for adults and $15 for students and are available from TicketMaster or by phoning the Showplace TicketMaster box office on 759 0021.
- Taranaki Daily News
Is Ma'a Nonu returning to the Hurricanes ...Related story: Ma'a Nonu's return to Hurricanes confirmed