Thursday 2 February 2012 | Published in Regional
This article and photo are reprinted courtesy of the Bairnsdale Advertiser in Victoria, Australia. The article has not been edited, except for the headline, which said ‘Famed Cook Islands boxer passes on knowledge’.
He may be small in stature and as friendly as can be, but Cook Islands boxing legend Piri Puruto can pack a punch, and currently he is passing on his knowledge with the boxers at Eastcoast Boxing Club in the town of Bairnsdale, Australia.
Piri was the Cook Islands’ middleweight champion in 1959, 60, 61, 62 and 63 and claimed a South Pacific Games silver medal in Suva, Fiji, in 1963.
He is in Bairnsdale to see his son and his son’s family, while also giving guidance in the ring and about his heritage.
He is currently the patron for the Cook Islands boxing team and in 2008 was inducted into the sports hall of fame.
Piri is legendary for his boxing feats in his home country, but he is also somewhat of a celebrity.
He teaches traditional Cook Islands fire lighting ceremonies, using only things he can find on a coconut tree.
He also climbs massive coconut trees with nothing but his bare hands and shoeless feet in a traditional Atiu warrior outfit made from coconuts.
It is his living, he enjoys every minute of it and has become known as the self proclaimed Coconut King of Rarotonga, an island in the Cook Islands.
The coconut has played a big role in Piri’s life, and there is not much he cannot do with one.
“Before white man come the coconut gives us fire, gives us water, gives us meat, but first we have to get the coconut,” Piri said with a cheeky grin.
During his time with the Eastcoast Boxing Club, he wants to teach his country’s traditions and let the boxers know where he comes from and what is important to him in life.
He explained that the coconut fire lighting ceremonies reflect calmness and control, two essentials to boxing, but also that if you light half a dry coconut over night, it will burn as a candle for up to 12 hours, with the kicker being it can keep the mosquitoes away.
“It keeps the mozzies away if you do it right, but it is a good candle if you burn the right amount.
“You have to make sure it’s dry though I have had this one (pictured) drying for about 10 days.”
- Bairnsdale Advertiser