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Francis Waitai will step into the ring for an Australasian championship title on May 6. Photo: GORDON PREECE

‘Hauraki’s Hardest’ ready to rumble

A rigorous training schedule while caring for three children and dealing with animal carcasses is Francis Waitai’s determination as he prepares for an upcoming boxing title fight.
The Paeroa-based New Zealand Super Middleweight Champion will go toe to toe with the current Queensland champion for the same weight class, Tangiariki Mauri on May 6 at YMCA Hamilton.

A win would earn Francis, who’s nicknamed Hauraki’s Hardest, the World Boxing Council Australasia Silver Super Middleweight title.
Francis, who gave a boxing demonstration at Goldfields Mall on April 14, told The Profile he was “feeling good” ahead of his clash with Mauri, a man he admits to be a friend outside the ring but not in the ring.
“Training’s going well, starting to feel fit and strong, nearing up to it anyway,” he said. “As long as I’m fit and strong enough then nothing will be able to stop me.
“Getting this title would put me up there in the world rankings so it would mean a lot.”
Francis, who said he currently sits around 190 in the world rankings, said he trained roughly three hours a day after work at Silver Fern Farms in Te Aroha and as much as he could in between time with his kids, Cassius, Hoani and Louki.
“I stick to it everyday and do the best that I can do, and work towards my goals,” he said.
“My partner [Ngaz Tamanui] helps out a lot as well all the way.”
Francis’s training includes pad work, shadow boxing, bodyweight exercises and sparring at Never Surrender Boxing Health and Fitness Club in Thames as well as sprints, running up and down the Paeroa Grandstand steps and running a combined distance of around 40km per week.
The 27-year-old said he became hooked on boxing in 2013 when he visited Never Surrender with friends. “Once I went in I thought I would never leave, I loved it,” he said.
“I really liked the training and then one day coach [Shaun George] told me if I was keen to have a fight and I said yes.”
Francis said his first fight was held in Thames at an event called Chaos on the Coromandel in 2014 and he had gone on to compete in more than 50 amateur fights plus eight professional fights since turning pro in 2019.
His most notable professional fight was last year when he convincingly beat Chase Haley from Dunedin to scalp the New Zealand Super Middleweight Championship title.
“It was a big deal for me at first, it was cool, never see anything like this around here anyway,” Francis said.
“I owe a lot to my trainer Shaun George, without him I would’ve never got to where I am right now in the ring fighting for these titles.
“He has a big part to play in all this, he’s got a lot of passion for it.”
Francis also thanked his sponsors for supporting him on his boxing journey.
He has defended his Super Middleweight Championship title three times and looked forward to potentially loosening the belt to make way for the World Boxing Council Australasia Silver Super Middleweight title on May 6.