By MALUM NALU
VILLAGE-inspired Papua New Guinean Tyrone “The Cyclone” Tongia (14-2, 7KOs) will be fighting for the Australian professional junior middleweight (70kg) title in Brisbane on Friday.
It is the culmination of a long journey in which the 27-year-old fought his way to the top, taking on the best Australian boxing has to offer.
Of mixed Central and New Ireland-Chinese heritage, Tongia began an unconventional pugilistic journey in 2002, vowing to bring honour to his fellow PNG youth.
On Friday, “The Cyclone” fights Andrew “Sundance” Gosden, for the Australian junior middleweight title at the Mansfield Tavern in Brisbane.
After completing Year 12 at Brisbane State High in Queensland, it was while on a New Year’s pilgrimage in 2001 to Port Moresby and Nokon, New Ireland, that the inspiration for fighting for a cause was born in him.
His family and village experience along with a chance meeting with an uncle, PNG’s former world-rated kyokushin champion Walter Schnaubelt, ignited the will to merge his sense for adventure and sport with the greater good for family and community by channelling his raw energy in boxing.
With initial ambitions for rugby league and union where he earned the nickname “Cyclone” for breaking tackles, Tongia instead pursued boxing because he believed the gruelling sport challenged his “personal growth and sense of liveliness” like no other.
Inspired by the international feats of our own professional boxing legends John Aba and Martin Beni, Tongia ventured to Sydney to learn and train with Australia’s best, remaining undaunted by the new city, his inexperience and lack of personal networks. Tongia recalls encountering many obstacles but stayed on track at all costs, even sleeping in a park a few days until he was accepted to train at the world-renowned Team Fenech headquarters with Billy Hussein in Marrickville, Melbourne .
He did many menial jobs to economically support his ambition including factory work, fruit market packing, and cleaning jobs.
After three disciplined years plying his trade as an amateur, Tongia returned to Brisbane to train for his professional debut which was held in Sydney on the undercard to the biggest boxing fight in Australian history, Danny Green vs Anthony Mundine in May 2006.
Tongia’s alias “The Cyclone” was given new life as he exceeded expectations and blew out his opponent during his professional debut which quickly received over 35,000 views on worldwide internet site YouTube.
Building a growing army of supporters in Brisbane, Tongia has attracted praise from both Mundine and Green.
In Australia’s Courier Mail on March 6 this year, which headlined Tongia as one of the hottest prospects in Australia, three-time world champion and sporting icon, Jeff Fenech, commented:
“He (Tongia) has talent and great power.He just has to stay determined to make it.”
For the first time since his pledge to honour his fellow PNG youth in 2001, “The Cyclone” returned to Moresby and New Ireland last September to again experience his roots.
Tongia then resumed his boxing career in Australia, refreshed with village-inspired creativity, purpose and vigour; consecutively knocking off highly-touted fighters to earn a shot at the coveted Australian title.
After meeting with both setbacks and victories along the way, Tongia is proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way – it takes disciplined and constructive efforts.
Follow his progress on www.cyclonesquad.com