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11 November 2022

Cooks boxer takes another jab at Paris Olympics qualifying dream

Thursday 22 February 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Boxing, Sports

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Cooks boxer takes another jab at Paris Olympics qualifying dream
Boxer Tawhiri Toheriri (Rarotonga, Mangaia, Ngāti Porou) dreams of representing the Cook Islands at the Paris Olympics in 2024. TAWHIRI TOHERIRI 24021980 / 24021981 / 24021982

Cook Islands will be represented in Italy next month as Māori light middleweight boxer Tawhiri Toheriri takes a second shot at securing his spot to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics this July and August.

The twenty-three-year-old from Te Tai Rāwhiti (Gisborne, New Zealand) will represent his Cook Islands heritage, with akapapa to Rarotonga and Mangaia through the Munro family. 

“Growing up you learn that Olympians are the best athletes in the world,” says Toheriri. 

He’s fighting for his dream, despite travelling without his team, as his coach had to pull out of the competition.  Toheriri says this would have seen most boxers withdrawn but he’s determined to remain on his Olympic journey. 

“I just said nah, I’ll stay in it and sort something out,” says Tawhiri, who has been boxing for ten years and is confident he knows the ropes well enough to stand in Italy. 

Fortunately for Toheriri, Tongan national coach Doug Viney has stepped in to help: “He said he’ll jump in my corner and give me a hand where I need. It’s cool to have that support.”

Toheriri represented the Cook Islands at the Commonwealth Games in 2022, competed at the World Championships last year, and this qualifier is his second shot at making it to the Olympics.

He only just missed out on qualifying for Paris when he lost his first fight to an Australian opponent who eventually took out the entire tournament, at last year's Pacific Games.

Never giving up and dedicated to his sport, Toheriri trains six days a week, three times a day, living and breathing boxing; but it wasn’t always that way.

As a child growing up in Aotearoa “like any other Māori boy” he was “hardout into rugby”. 

But reaching high school he says he was a late bloomer, getting thrown around on the field by his peers. After a chance meeting with a friend who encouraged him to try boxing, he gave it a go at the age of thirteen and “the rest is history”. 

Even further than the Olympics, Toheriri dreams of becoming World Champion. 

Toheriri is fundraising for the trip, which is not supported with funds from the Olympic committee. He is currently sitting at the halfway mark of his $10,000 goal on crowd-funding site Givealittle.com

He says: “Opportunities and chances like this don't come around very often and with it possibly being the last time boxing appears in the Olympics, I will ensure I do whatever it takes to get there and put on for our nation and my cultures. So any awhi(help) big, small and messages mean the world to me.”