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Sport | Boxing

Tikanga Māori In The Ring

A Christchurch boxing centre is putting tikanga Māori at the forefront of its training programmes.

Papuni Boxing Ōtautahi offers youth classes for ages seven to 18 years and runs an academy for junior boxers.

Reece Papuni, a former professional boxer and New Zealand Commonwealth Games representative, started his business in 2021.

“When you come into our space, whether it’s for a long time or a short time, you are a part of our whanau,” he said.

There has been increasing interest among Māori in the sport and he has now introduced classes for aspiring young female boxers ages 12 to 18.

“We wanted to create a space where female participants were empowered and so far, we’re delighted with the response.

Across the board, wāhine numbers are up 30 percent and participation has increased 20 percent for tama as well,” Papuni said.

The programmes are informed by the wellbeing model, Te Whare Tapa Whā which incorporates the four pillars of health: tinana (physical), hinengaro (mental), wairua (spiritual), and whānau (family).

“We prioritise a sense of belonging and community among not just our young people, but their wider whānau as well.”

Papuni believed following traditional Māori values of kotahitanga (unity) manaakitanga (giving) and whanaungatanga (relationships), also removed barriers for young people – including misconceptions about the sport of boxing.

“Boxing is a great vehicle for rangatahi as it teaches life skills such as discipline, respect and integrity,”  Papuni said.

Anne Cherie Manawatu-Pearcy has three children attending the club.

“The kids are learning so much. They absolutely love it.”

She says Papuni Boxing Ōtautahi also made it an affordable whānau sport.

Rātā Foundation Chief Executive Leighton Evans said the South Island funder is proud to support Papuni Boxing Ōtautahi.

“We know rangatahi are disengaging from sport and active recreation, and this is particularly apparent among Māori and Pasifika communities and in high-deprivation areas,” Leighton said.

“The work Reece and his team are doing to create a community of support around young people and remove some of the barriers that prevent them from participating in sport is inspiring. They’re a proud kaupapa Māori organisation, and their impact extends well beyond tamariki and rangatahi to empower whānau and wider hapori to thrive.”