Samoa’s future boxing stars had the chance of a lifetime yesterday to be inspired.
The opportunity came when Lupesoliai Laauli Joseph Parker and his trainer Kevin Barry visited Bubba Tuigamala’s gym Plantation Boxing to give a few tips to young upcoming boxers.
Bubba’s father, Inga Tuigamala, described Lupesoliai’s visit as a humbling experience for all of Samoa, to have someone with his skills come back and visit the place of his origin.
“Boxing (in Samoa) is on a downhill spiral,” Tuigamala said.
“Boxing has been strong over the years but unfortunately the last few years it has dipped big time. It was our national sport and now the kids are playing rugby so having Joseph here is huge to us. It inspires the younger generation to showcase their skills which is great because they are very, very talented.”
Tuigamala was thrilled to have the world-class team visit his gym but he was more excited about the impact of the visit on the children.
“We’ve got one of the best boxing trainers in the world here, Kevin Barry showcasing some of the skills that these young kids need to know so it’s absolutely brilliant. I’m absolutely delighted. Words are not enough to contain my happiness to be able to see something like this. It’s just brilliant for Samoan boxing.”
And the children have been looking forward to this event for a long time.
“They were here early this morning at seven, cleaning up and trying to pick up all the rubbish to keep the place clean for Joseph, it’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”
Lupesoliai had nothing but praise for the young boxers, and was impressed with how quickly they picked up on the skills Barry was teaching them.
“We got invited to come here and it’s good to show the kids who are coming up who are trying to learn how to box properly how we do it in the ring. It’s good for them to see firsthand and I think with Kevin teaching them, they’re getting a bit of a fair idea of what to do and what not to do,” he said.
“I think it went great, it was a good turnout, and I think the kids are actually learning something. I think that when Kevin had his one-on-one session he (the young boxer) actually picked up what Kevin was teaching him quite fast so it’s good to see that improvement in just that short time.”
Lupesoliai even had his favourites among the young boxers.
“I like it man, this little kid was my favourite, he’s sharp for a little dude, almost the same speed as me, maybe he’s even faster. But no he’s young and if he gets the guidance he can get, he’ll definitely be something in the future.”
The boxer’s message for the upcoming boxers focused on healthy eating and dedication to training.
“Eat healthy. Be healthy, give it 100% and if you choose to do boxing and you want to achieve something in boxing you’ve gotta give it 100%. You’ve gotta eat healthy, train hard, listen to the coach and be like a sponge you know, take everything in and try your best to display your talent.”
Bubba hopes that Lupesoliai’s fight here in Samoa will help kick start the country’s interest in boxing once more.
“This will have a huge impact on boxing in Samoa, through Joseph’s fight hopefully it will inspire more kids to get into boxing and hopefully through that there’ll be more gyms and more places like this for kids to do it,” he told the Samoa Observer.
Bubba and his wife set up the Samoan Boxing Academy as a means to help out Samoa’s youth.
“A lot of our kids that we’ve taken in they don’t go to school, they just hang around the village all day and do nothing, so we thought we’d come set ourselves up in Samoa and give them something to have a focus on and something to do with their time,” he said.
The academy will receive funds from the Rumble in Paradise charity auction on Saturday night which will hopefully help Bubba and his wife continue the great work they’ve been doing in the community.
“I want to focus on the kids we have here and the little gym we do have and hopefully one day if God blesses with the ability to be able to expand that would be amazing,” he told the Samoa Observer.
Bubba was honoured to host Lupesoliai in his little gym at the base of Mt Vaea saying, “it’s a pleasure having him here, the kids are so amazed having him here and it’s so awesome for them, bringing him to such a small village and who he is is a big deal for all these kids so it’s awesome.”
And in the words of Inga Tuigamala, “this is a day that Samoa can celebrate the birth of boxing again, the rebirth of boxing.
"So I’m very honoured to have Kevin Barry and Joseph here.”