Comm Games beckons for boxer Richie

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Packing a punch: Richie Hadlow Commonwealth Games bound

A Queenstown boxer’s 20-year-old dream is about to be realised.

Four-time New Zealand light welterweight champion Richie Hadlow has been selected today for the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The former Aucklander says he first dreamed of going to the Games at the age of 10 when he was a talented gymnast.

In 2002, he made the wider Kiwi squad for the Manchester Games in England but wasn’t picked.

“I fell out of love with that sport, so to come back and get into boxing and be where I am right now is really cool.”

Unusually, if selected he’ll be one Kiwi athlete who’s already tasted gold on the Gold Coast – that’s where he won the Oceania Boxing Federation’s light welterweight title last June.

Hadlow lost his last bout in Texas, in the United States, last month against a top US junior, but that came after a plane flight the night before and two days’ competitive sparring against world-class opponents.

“Given my best day, I would have beaten that guy.”

Hadlow goes to Canberra, Australia, for a final 10-day training camp next month with boxers from six countries, before competing in the Comm Games in April.

Fifth-ranked in the Commonwealth and 27th-ranked in the world, Hadlow says he’s “going for the medals” if he makes it to the GC.

“I think there’s going to be a division of 32, so it’s going to take five fights to win.”

Boxing at this level, he says, depends a lot on the draw, “but in my mind I’ve got one fight, and that’s the first fight, and I take it from there.”

Coach Stewart Mitchell says Hadlow’s never been fitter.

“He’s really improved his work-rate – he can maintain aggression the full fight but he doesn’t over-commit any more.”

After missing out selection for the Olympics two years ago, it’s been a long qualifying process for the Comm Games, he notes.

Mitchell says his supporters – like locals Lee Exell, Jonathan Gurnsey and Neki Patel – have pumped tens of thousands of dollars into his campaign.

Hadlow, who’s now had about 45 fights, adds: “I’ve done the work, but at the same time you need the financial backing.”

scoop@scene.co.nz