'I have to block out the outside world and negative comments'
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
When boxer John Fiu - nicknamed Boulder Shoulders - needs a break from the challenges of life, he finds solace on the beach by listening to the waves.
Fiu, who grew up in West Auckland but now lives in Māngere, was born with cerebral palsy and Dandy-Walker syndrome - a rare congenital condition where the cerebellum does not develop normally.
He is an adaptive boxer - a boxer who fights from a wheelchair on a floor-level ring.
Since Covid-19, the 35-year-old has endured a number of setbacks; including the postponement of his upcoming bout that was originally down for this month. It is now next month.
‘I have to block out the outside world and their negative comments’
Fiu has also had to deal with hateful messages on social media, but says he uses those to give him strength and motivation to train harder.
“It’s pretty hard. I have to stick to what I know and can do,” he says.
“I have to block out the outside world and their negative comments because at the moment, it doesn’t like people like me and my disability community.”
He finds solace by going to the beach, sitting there and being enveloped in the peace that the waves bring, he says.
“I like to go to the beach and look at the sea to make sure that in that time, the sea is more important.
“I just go there and sit there. The waves come and go - like the bad comments I get. They come and go.”
Another boxer from famous Faleatiu
Fiu hails from the Samoan villages of Salelologa and Faleatiu - the latter village the ancestral home of another well-known boxer, heavyweight champ Faumuina To’aletai David Tua.
Going into his next fight in a few weeks, Fiu acknowledges he has won all of his 18 bouts and is training six times a week with two days off.
Of those 18 fights he has won, 10 were won by technical knock out - and he is confident his ext fight will be the 11th.
“It’s going to be TKO,” he says confidently.
If he nabs the win, Fiu says he will take his title back to his village of Faleatiu, Samoa.
“I want to be the first-ever New Zealand adaptive wheelchair boxing champion.
He also wants to see the sport included in the Paralympic Games in Paris, France, next year.
Hero image: John Fiu aka Boulder Shoulders is an adaptive boxer from South Auckland.