Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
In only his third year of stepping into the ring, Lautofa Ioapo is set to fight at this year’s Pacific Games following his fathers footsteps.
It is not common to find a boxing gym right next to a well known Pacific catering business, however that’s the case for the Pacific Boxing Academy in Otahuhu.
The self made gym is nestled in a small lot right next to the famous Pinati’s Restaurant and Catering. Despite the lure of the aroma of Pinatis tasty lamb buns, Pacific Boxing Academy and its fighters are hungry more for success.
Leading the pack of young fighters is 27 year old Lautofa Ioapo who is gearing up to represent Samoa in the upcoming Pacific Games.
Only in his third year of boxing, Lautofa has not only climbed up the ranks of New Zealand’s amateur boxers, but is highly touted to place well at the games. Despite being a newcomer his work rate is unmatched.
“If I get given a fight I’m always like making sure I just focus aye. You know tunnel vision in the zone and just focused” Lautofa said.
“In the short time that I have been fighting man, I take every opportunity that comes forth.
I train three times a day. You do the morning runs under the lights, sacrifice the sleep in the morning. Got the midday strength training and then I got the team training in the afternoon”
Lautofas “never say never” attitude is instilled in his blood as his father was also a former Pacific Games representative for American Samoa.
“Yeah he’s been a big motivation behind it. Been a big push. Just hearing that he’s done the same and I am following in his footsteps”
“It’s basically come down to me and I’m like just the same thing that I’ve applied to anything in life aye. Just hard work you just grind it out and you get the results you wanted”
Also helping Lautofa on his boxing journey is his coach/trainer and former Samoa boxing rep Frank Masoe. After taking a step back from the ring a couple of years back, Masoe decided that it was time to give back to the sport through coaching.
Having represented Samoa in the Commonwealth Games and making a name for himself in the New Zealand boxing scene, Masoe shares the same work ethic as Lautofa’s.
It might be the reason as to why their partnership gelled immediately the first time they partnered up as coach and fighter.
“He’s been enjoying himself first and foremost. And now he’s starting to realise how much potential he has he actually puts his head down and grinds and works” Masoe said about his prodigy Lautofa.
“Thankfully with my experience in the past, I kinda give the boys uh, I give Tofa a little run down of what’s happening. How to approach things and upcoming tournaments and stuff and how quick you got to mentally switch on and when to switch off and stuff aye”
With the Pacific Games only a few weeks away, Lautofa believes he is ready and hungry for success. However Masoe is making sure that he takes one fight at a time, and to always be calm in his mindset and actions.
Aside from the Pacific Games and inside of the ring, both Masoe and Lautofa are wanting to also create a lasting change outside of the ring for future Pacific boxers who are willing to take up the sport.
When asked about his coaching dreams Masoe said “I do want to create pathway for a lot of Pasifika fighters that if one door closes for example if New Zealand closes, or there’s not an opportunity here in New Zealand there’s an opportunity to go back home to their Pacific Islands to their motherland”
Lautofa added “I’ve only been here for three years and a lot of these kids have been fighting for years, and I want to be that first guy that creates that first pathway for them and let them know that there is a career in what they are doing and there’s big things they can do in the sport”
Although a gold medal will be the preferred outcome from the Pacific Games, Lautofa is proud to be flying the Samoan flag and representing his homeland.
“I won’t be representing just my family and stuff, I will be representing the whole country.
Yeah it means alot especially for my parents. I was born here but Samoa will always have that place in my heart. So yeah, repping the 685 is going to be good”