Boxing in Samoa is turning a new leaf. It starts with the appointment of a new President for the Samoa Amateur Boxing Association (S.A.B.A.).
He is former Manu Samoa and All Black, Fesola’i Lealuga Va’aiga Tuigamala. Fesola’i will be working closely with his Vice Presidents, Tagaloa Pasi Poloa, of Upolu Savaii Boxing, Masoe Lorenzo Fepulea’i, of Plantation Boxing and Tupa’i Klaus Stunzner, of Marist Boxing, in a bid to take the sport to a new level.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, the man known around the world as Inga the Winger is excited about the challenge.
“We’ve got a big calendar as we’ve seen last year with the introduction of schools boxing. And that was a huge success and we’ve got our interclub competitions,” he said.
“Looking ahead this year, we’ve got the Commonwealth Youth Games that is held in the Bahamas and that’s in July. We’ll be sending four boxers that have been confirmed to participate in the Commonwealth tournament."
“Also, in mid-march we have another boxing tournament in New Zealand on behalf of I.A.B.A, the International Amateur Boxing Association. So it’s an opportunity for our referees and judges to be accredited and get qualifications. That’s an opportunity we don’t want to miss out on.”
The new President believes that if boxing is to improve in Samoa, the standard in terms of administration and officials has to improve first. It’s one of his priority areas where he would use his vast experience to develop.
“On the National front, we need to grow the grassroots. That’s the focus of our S.A.B.A Board alongside the presidents and vice presidents of different boxing rings. In the schools programme, we want to make sure the foundation is solid.”
Fesolai is under no illusion that the reconstruction of the sport will take time and hard work.
“There’s a lot of work, it’s not a quick fix overnight and we just have to make sure we’re very thorough in our preparations. The next twelve months is going to be interesting and exciting at the same time.”
The executive committee met with the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi last week.
“He’s excited, very optimistic and very encouraging,” Fesola’i said about their meeting.
“He was always wanting change. He was very passionate about boxing. His encouragement to us is to make sure we do our very best and reminded us that we are servant and caretakers."
“We have duty to make sure that we support, develop, nurture and encourage our youngsters to be the very best they can be. Boxing is one of his favorite sports and we see that in the times he’s supported Joseph Parker. Not only here but overseas, so we have a good programme, but we need everyone to put their hand on the plough and work together."
“As much as I am proud to be the President of S.A.B.A, I’m only a servant to the association and a servant to these young kids coming through. The priority is always the fighters and make sure that when they go into camps, Preparation is the key. The old saying, if you fail to plan you plan to fail."
“We owe it to our children to plan a pathway to success and we’re going to do a lot of work with them and we’re hoping to redevelop boxing in schools and in the region. We want everyone, whether they’re in town or in the villages to try out boxing. If anything its great for their health and fitness as well.”
Fesola’i understands that with great power comes great responsibility. With his new appointment as President, he understands that he must be the one to keep boxing clubs in all of Samoa aligned and unified.
“The biggest challenge I will face, looking at the S.A.B.A is making sure there is unity because everyone has different ways of doing things. Everyone has different ways of doing things. My challenge at the moment is keep the momentum going and keep things refreshing and really just be the unifier to the association. We owe it to these young boys and girls who take up boxing.”
Another challenge is getting parents to realise that boxing is a relatively safe sport and to get them to consent to let their child step into the ring.
“The sport is quite a safe sport. That’s one of the things we have to look at is the safety of the fighters and how do we assure the parents that it’s a good and safe sport. We have to make sure that the environment in which these fighters train in is safe. Environment is really important.”
And finally, the challenge that most sporting bodies face is the lack of generation of income to give fighters an opportunity to travel internationally and gain more experience.
“There are a lot of challenges, and obviously there is the challenges of funds. Unfortunately , we have this idea that, its not about the money. But to be honest, it is about the money. We cant send our fighters and potential world champions to compete overseas if we do not have funds,” he said.
“I’m very aware we need to create funds so that these kids are being assured that they’ve been given the best opportunity to succeed. Saying that, we’re not wanting hand outs. I’ll make that very clear: we are not looking for hand outs we are looking for a hand up. I think that’s something we would like to encourage anyone who will partner us in this journey to revive boxing. We want people who may be financially in a strong position to contribute financially, we don’t want them just to give us money but to give us a hand up in all these things. “
Still Fesola’i remains optimistic as ever and looks to Olympic Gold Medalist, Valerie Adams for inspiration during these tough times.
“I know a lot of sporting federations are feeling the pinch right now and we’re no different. We’re not the richest country in the world, but I love what the Olympic Champion in Shot put, Valier Adams had to say when she was on island. She was asked a question, “What is your advice to us given that we are a very poor region in terms of sporting and that. Her answer was, “ My best advice I can give to you guys is, make the most of what you have.” If it’s little, make the most of what little you have."
“That’s very encouraging to us, that yes we don’t have a lot. But the challenge for us is are we making the most of it. I agree with her, we’re not.
I think we need to encourage ourselves to look into what we have now and help utilize it and who we can partner up with in this journey.”
“This is a marathon not a sprint.”
New S.A.B.A Admin:
President: Fesolai Lealuga Va’aiga Tuigamala
Vice Presidents: Tagaloa Papaliitele Pasi Poloa (Upolu Savaii Boxing Ring) , Lorenzo Fepuleai (Plantation Boxing Ring), Tupai J Klaus Stunzner (Marist Boxing Ring)
General Secretary: Galumalemana Fredrick E Crichton
Treasurer: Tavui Mike Lemisio
Executive Members: Aualiitia Faafouina Milford, Uialatea Faletolu Iona Su’a, Aumua Ming Leung Wai, Leaso Usoalii, Luamanuvae Mateo Ah Tong, Tuna Papalii
Doctor: Ben Matalavea
Solicitor: Semi Leung Wai
Auditor: Sua ma Pauga Associates
Referee & Judges: Uialatea Faletolu Iona Sua, Aualiitia Faafouina Milford, Leaso Usoalii
RJ Members: Tuala Sanele, Seumanutafa Savea Alao,Daphne Tuigamal, Taavao Opeta, Lasi Wilson Kilisimasi Afitu, Kent Alofipo, Aukuso Leleisiuao
Coaches and Trainers/ Commission: Lionel Elika Fatupaito, Tavui Mikaele Lemisio, Bubba Tuigamala, Poutoa Hall
Coach/Trainers Members: Likou Aliu, Mapusaga Loulating, Ilalio Vaele
Chairman of viewing Constitution: Aumua Ming Leung Wai