Gore Boxing Club member Jesse Hawken is a South Island Golden Gloves title-holder and has his eyes focused on an even bigger prize.
At the recent boxing tournament in Christchurch, the 23-year-old won the elite open 75kg division.
The Invercargill boxer travels to Gore to train under Gore Boxing Club coach Russell Newton.
He had been boxing for nine years and had always wanted to train under Newton, Hawken said.
Now he had the opportunity to do so.
‘‘I want to go to the Olympics and I sort of needed someone who can actually get me there, someone at that level, and Russell’s the guy.’’
He had been training with Newton since the start of the year and was pleased with the progress he had made.
‘‘I’ve made a drastic improvement, stylistically. It’s made all the difference.’’
He was hoping for a good performance at the national boxing championships next month to earn selection for the Olympics.
In 2018 he won the national youth middleweight title.
Newton was made a New Zealand selector in 2011 and has attended international tournaments as part of the New Zealand boxing coaching team.
In 1982 Newton was also the last Southlander to win the national middleweight title, Hawken said.
‘‘I’m hoping to make history — the first one in 40 years.’’
Newton said he was trying to ease back on his coaching commitments but could not resist the opportunity to coach someone with Hawken’s potential who could repeat his 1982 title win.
‘‘I want to be the guy that coaches the next New Zealand middleweight champion that comes out of Southland.’’
He coached Hawken when he was part of the Southland team and won the junior title in 2018.
‘‘He’s got great skills.’’
Another member of the club, Rina Barlow of Mataura, also competed at the Golden Gloves in the novice 60kg division.
She won her semifinal bout and lost the final.
It was Barlow’s third fight.
‘‘I loved the whole experience.’’
The tournament had been a learning curve for her.
‘‘I learned a lot about myself in terms of how far I can push myself.
‘‘I still have a lot of work to do in terms of fitness.’’
She said she had pushed herself mentally and physically during the bouts.
‘‘For me that’s a win.’’
She had good support from her family and friends.
She started boxing in the women’s fitness class four years ago.
‘‘I’ve fallen in love with the sport.’’
It had also helped her with her mental health.
‘‘It’s a safe space for me to be me.’’