You pick a fight with Queenstown boxer Sam Connely at your peril.
In less than three months, the light-heavyweight has won his division’s South Island novice title, the South Island Golden Gloves open title and the North Island Golden Gloves novice title.
Connely, an apprentice builder, 24, is undefeated in five fights – technically six, as he won the South Island novice title in a walkover.
Connely trained for six months last year with Stewart Mitchell, head coach of Queenstown’s Fight Science Amateur Boxing Club – but he only got serious this year.
Despite knocking out South Island novice championship opponents in his first two fights, it was still a bold move for Connely to step up to open class at the South Island Golden Gloves.
Mitchell: “I knew it was going to be a challenge but a good learning experience.”
Connely says his open class win was unexpected: “It was a hell of a close fight and I was just delighted.”
Connely fought two boxers to win the North Island title a week later – he was “absolutely over the moon” to win his semi-final after thinking he’d lost it.
Winning three bouts in seven days to take the Golden Gloves was a major achievement, Mitchell says.
The trainer outlines his fighter’s qualities: “Sam’s got the power and he’s got that viciousness, explosiveness with it as well, and he’s got confidence.”
After the South Island novices, Mitchell wrote: “Sam produced one of the most unnerving ring entries I have seen since Mike Tyson. His presence as he walked around in the ring, staring out at the crowd waiting for the bill, sent shivers down my spine.
“People will pay good money to watch Sam evolve.”
Connely, of Cornwall, England, says: “There’s no adrenalin buzz like facing up to someone who wants to knock your head off.
“And it’s a good team to go travelling with around the country.”
Connely is now targeting the national boxing championships, to be held in Queenstown in October next year.