Teen toughs it out for debut win

Team spirit . . . Celebrating together after the victory are (from left) Timaru boxers Francis Taafaki, 13, Pasoni Taafaki, 16, Lachlan O’Neill, 16, and Taafaki Taafaki, 12. PHOTO: Supplied

Through bumps, bruises and a bloody nose, 16-year-old Timaru boxer Lachlan O’Neill beat the odds and walked out with a victory from his debut bout.

Stepping up an age category from junior to youth, O’Neill was a late replacement in the Rangiora Boxing Tournament held on October 28.

With only a few weeks to prepare and giving up an age advantage to opponent Khia Matthews, O’Neill fought through to a hard won split-decision victory over the course of three rounds.

He said leading up to the fight he had mixed emotions.

‘‘I was quite nervous at the start of the day, but as it got nearer to the time, I just thought to myself there is no point getting nervous because it’s going to happen.

‘‘Then, when it started getting a little closer I actually started to get quite excited.’’

Recounting the fight, O’Neill said things only really started working for him after the first round.

‘‘After you get punched in the face and the crowd starts cheering, it makes things a bit nerve-racking.

‘‘I only really started to click after the first round when I kind of got a bit angry.

‘‘When I got my hand raised at the end, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy.

‘‘I couldn’t believe it, it was so unreal.’’

Big win . . . Congratulating their fighter Lachlan O’Neill, 16, are Timaru Boxing club coaches (from left) Hayden Briggs, Badi Taafaki and Hannah Guthrie. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Timaru Boxing coach Hannah Guthrie said it was a great first outing for the young boxer.

‘‘Lachie has been with us for just over a year and had been training hard and waiting for his opportunity to fight.

‘‘He took the fight on about two to three weeks’ notice, went up an age group and despite a bleeding nose for three rounds, managed to put on a calm, composed performance and came away with the win, which we are so proud of.’’

She said it was great for him to get out there and be the one who got all the support.

‘‘Lachie is used to being the one travelling with us and standing on the side supporting our other fighters so it was really nice for a change to have him in there and the rest of the team able to give him that support back.’’

With a debut fight now under his belt, O’Neill is not sitting around waiting; he has already lined up another fight on November 11 in the Rangatahi Toa: The New Generation of Warriors tournament in Christchurch.

O’Neill said it would be a tough fight.

‘‘I heard the boy I am fighting is quite fit, so I’m just trying my best to get fitter in the gym to prepare.’’

O’Neill will be joined by three other Timaru boxers including another debutant, at the tournament, run by Papuni Boxing O ¯ tautahi.

Francis Taafaki will make her debut in the tournament and in the process will become the first female from the Timaru Boxing Club to fight in three years, the last being Guthrie herself.

Guthrie said it had been a hard time trying to find Francis a fight.

‘‘She has been working so hard and is incredibly tough.

‘‘She has been with us for quite a while now, so we are extremely pleased to be able to finally get her a fight.’’

Joining the two will be Timaru staples Pasoni Taafaki and Taafaki Taafaki, with Pasoni in the main bout

The event takes place on November 11 at the Caledonian Society venue in Wigram, Christchurch. It will be the last tournament this year at which Timaru fighters will compete.