By HENRY MORABANG
THE Papua New Guinea Boxing Union will be at the mercy of the national government and the corporate firms if it is to maintain its top billing in the Pacific region, according to president John Avira.
Speaking from Singapore yesterday, Avira said if PNG wanted to maintain its number one position in the Pacific region, outside of Australia and New Zealand, the sport needed corporate backing to harness the talent that was clearly out there.
“We are number one in the Pacific but we want to be number one in Oceania region by knocking off the current leading nation, Australia.
“To do that, we need government and corporate backing,” Avira said.
PNG boxers won eight of the 13 gold medals on offer at the Pacific Games, signalling the potential the country had in the sport despite not attracting more corporate support over the years.
General-secretary Dr Gideon Kendino supported Avira, saying the sport was looking to build on the success at the Pacific Games and the nurturing and development of talent like national and Pacific Games lightweight champion Thadius Katua, who is considered one of the best fighters to come out of the region in recent years.
“We tell the corporate organisations we approach that boxing is a sport that can give value for money and aside from weightlifting, could produce medal winners on the world stage,” Kendino said. “There are many other boxers who have potential that Thadius (Katua) displayed on the world stage so we are now organising ourselves with the hope that corporate organisations who want to support a sport that has a huge potential to produce results can join boxing for the exciting times ahead.”
Katua aquitted himself well at the Olympic level, even winning the crowd over in a strong performance against a Russian opponent in his only bout at the Rio Games in August. “Thadius’ performance at the Olympics shows what PNG is capable of producing and if we can give our fighters the right amount of support, there’s no telling how far they can go.”
For Katua, who won gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Apia, Samoa, last year, the latter part of 2016 saw the 21-year-old train in-country as well as overseas and the PNGBU is counting on the Bougainvillean as well as the other top amateurs to keep PNG on top.
Avira, who retained his position as national boxing boss following the annual general meeting in Kavieng, New Ireland, last year said the new executive had plotted a course to win medals at the world’s major tournaments but only needed the backing to do it. “State and corporate support is crucial and will go a long way in taking our boxers to the Pacific Mini Games in Vanuatu next year and then onto the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 and then onto the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“It’s a big dream but with the right support I believe we do it,” Avira said.
Next year holds several opportunities for PNG fighters to shine, with Katua to lead the assault at the Mini Games in Vanuatu in December, as well as at AIBA regional and world tournaments before setting up a run to the Gold Coast Games.
By HENRY MORABANG