SOL23: Kiribati show heart at Sol2023 boxing

Kiribati debutant Erui Temakau has been living and training with coach Scott Bindloss in Australia. Photos: Junior Wasi and Aaron Ballekom, Pacific Games News Service

The second day of boxing at the Sol2023 Pacific Games featured intense clashes in the men’s quarter-final bouts witnessed by a packed audience at the Friendship Hall on Tuesday.

The action commenced with Erui Temakau, a Pacific Games debutant from Kiribati, facing off against Australia’s Yusuf Chothia in the men’s 51kg division. Despite Temakau’s brave effort and the crowd’s support, he was knocked out by a determined Chothia.

In the post-match interview with the Pacific Games News Service, an exhausted Temakau could only say: “This is my first Pacific Games, and the experience has been good.” Standing beside him was his coach, Scott Bindloss from Australia, who has been training Temakau and two other Kiribati boxers in Australia as part of a partnership between Kiribati and Boxing Australia. Bindloss revealed: “I first met Erui at the Commonwealth Games and, since then, he has been living with me in Australia along with two other fighters from Kiribati. Erui has had about 30 fights now, securing medals in nationals and clinching a couple of state titles in Victoria.

“This was his first time in the ring after three months of recovering from an injury. Erui is a tough athlete; we faced a tough draw against Yusuf, a favorite here. But we believe we can challenge him in the future. Our campaign has just begun, and we aim to qualify for the Olympics. Now, we’re going to rest and prepare for the world qualifiers in March,” Bindloss said.

In other results earlier in the afternoon, Australia’s Harry Garside secured a spot in the semi-finals by defeating Papua New Guinea’s John Ume in the men’s 63.5kg category. In the same division, Solomon Islands’ Pemberton Lele overcame Federated States of Micronesia’s Alexander Eliam Jr, and Fiji’s Elia Rokobuli had a tough fight in beating Nauru’s Mathew Martin.

The men’s 71kg quarterfinals saw Nauru’s Lachlan Halstead beating Tuvalu’s Fiu Tui, New Zealand’s Wendell Stanley overcoming Solomon Islands’ Dicks Lio, Australia’s Shannan Davey defeating Tawhirimatea Toheiriri-hallet from Cook Islands, and Tonga’s Taufa Lavemaau securing a victory over American Samoa’s Losifafo Tunoa.

In the men’s +92kg division quarters, New Zealand’s Patrick Mailata won the first match against Jadan Liu from American Samoa. Samoa’s Elijah Mercury-Leafa claimed victory in the second match against Kiribati’s Beeni Roubena, also a first-time contestant at the Pacific Games who has been training alongside Temakau in Australia.

Reflecting on the experience, Roubena told the Pacific Games News Service: “Win or lose, you have to accept it. This is my first Pacific Games; I began training in Australia with Erui and Theresa in August. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to train there. I’ll take this loss as a lesson and strive harder. It’s my first international fight, a significant motivator for me. I am determined to intensify my training for the upcoming Pacific Games.

The third match in the +92kg quarter-finals was won by Tonga’s Amato Mataika against Jr A’asa Alapati from Tuvalu, while Australia’s Teremoana Teremoana secured the win over Solomon Islands’ Jerry Leo in the fourth and final match for that category.

Tomorrow’s women’s quarterfinal rounds promise intensified clashes. The boxing matches continue at Friendship Hall until Saturday 2 December.

By Steven Kamoa and Aaron Ballekom, Pacific Games News Service