School hasn’t been straightforward for Devin Smith. A self confessed “slow learner,” his mother Deanna moved from Wainuiomata to Otaki over a year ago for a fresh start.
Smith failed to settle easily in his new hometown. He missed the sweat, grind and comraderie of the Naenae Boxing Academy so he left his mum and moved into the house next door to the boxing gym.
“I live with my coach Michael Hanily. He offered me a bed because he could see how much I missed boxing. It was sad to say goodbye to Mum, but she understands and we’re in touch almost every day,” Smith revealed.
The decision to stay close to the ring has reaped dividends for Smith. The middleweight (75kg) is the New Zealand Golden Gloves champion. He has an unblemished record of 13 wins without defeat.
After defeating Ezra Wilson from Heretaunga for the Wellington title he traveled to Christchurch to take on Shannon Drake for national honours.
“Shannon was on a stoppage streak, untouchable. He’s well built and dropped 6kg for the fight which was three, three minute rounds.
“In the first round I tried to keep him out with my jab and scored with a couple of shots. I could tell I was pressuring him because he came out busier in round two which meant I had to move more, change angles. The same thing happened at the start of the last round. With a minute left we were both sluggish and trading. That pisses off my coaches but I won a unanimous decision.”
Smith is also assisted by Harry Otty, an experienced campaigner who attended the Commonwealth Games, an ambition of Smith. His favourite fighter is two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist David Nyika who had 60 wins in 73 amateur fights before turning professional.
“David really inspires me because he showed you can make it from a small country with limited competition. I like his style too.”
Smith has changed his style considerably in recent years and attributes the positive shift to the Academy.
“I joined the Academy when I was 14. I was referred because I was always getting into trouble, hanging out with the wrong crowd, letting people down. I’d always wanted to do boxing, but I had no idea or pathway.
“When I first boxed I thought I was tough, but I was really nervous. I was gassed after a minute. When I first landed a punch and saw my opponent’s head rock back it was the best feeling. It’s hard to describe. The idea of boxing though is not to get hit.”
Smith has proven such a hit at the Academy he is now an intern assisting younger fighters and working part time in the running of the gym. He’s even doing alright in Year 13 at Hutt Valley High School.
“I’m bang average, but I’m passing,” Smith laughed.
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