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American Samoa boxers are ready for the Teuila Championship challenge

American Samoa’s winning boxing team

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa boxing team that won the Samoa Championship Trophy during the Teuila International Boxing Championship in September last year is ready to defend their title during this year’s Teuila boxing matches in two weeks.

The American Samoa Amateur Boxing Association (ASABA) team at the matches last year won 5 out of 9 bouts against fighters from the Samoa Amateur Boxing Association (SABA).

This year, American Samoa's team includes 3 seasoned boxers — Falaniko Tasi, Kaisa Ioane and Jolando Taalo — and two new warriors: Keresema Tafa, Mamona Tafa, along with a female boxer Onolina Viliamu.

Head coach Sala Sanele Etuale, a former boxer who had represented both Samoa and American Samoa in previous years told Samoa News during an interview last Friday that the team is ready to take up the challenge and they will bring the Cup back home.

“The ASABA will be sending a tough team to Samoa this weekend, to test the skills and fitness of the competitors from the two boxing organizations the ASABA and the SABA,” Sala said.

According to the schedule from the SABA, the two-day tournament will be held at Tuana’imato Sports Complex on September 5-6.

Sala confirmed to Samoa News that the roster has been finalized, and they've been training for over two months now.

He said this will be a good tournament for our team, to prepare them for upcoming tournaments including the Mosooi in October and other future international competitions.

“This will be a huge step for our young fighters who will be battling for the win this coming weekend. Not only will they get the chance to show they have the talent, but it will also prepare them for the next challenge in life. For our elite fighters, who have been in this business for a long time, this will be a good chance to prepare them for any future tournaments,” Sala said, adding that the two new warriors have been in the ring for over two years now, and he’s expecting them to do well next week.

Keresema Tafa is a young fighter who has the potential and the skills, and Sala is confident that he will do well next week in Samoa.

The more seasoned boxers on the roster include 2016 Samoa Games gold medalist, Tasi who holds an undefeated record in his amateur career. He has won 2 gold medals and a bronze from previous international boxing championships, including the 2015 Oceania Games and the Samoa Games last year, where he took home the MVP award.

Tasi qualified for the Youth Olympics this year in Argentina after an outstanding performance at the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) International Sparring Competition in Australia earlier last year in May.

When asked about his preparations for the upcoming scheduled fights in Samoa, Tasi said he’s ready for the challenge. “I’ve been training very hard for the upcoming tournament and I’m in great shape, thanks to my trainer and his advice,” he said, adding he’s confident in his boxing abilities and shows no signs of nervousness.

“… but I might get chills when I start in the ring, which is natural for all boxers; but I believe I can win a gold medal next week in Samoa,” said Tasi.

Ioane, who will be fighting in the 69kg division, said he will be using the Samoa tournament to test his fitness and his skills as he prepares for future tournaments.

He won 4 gold medals from previous international boxing championships, including the Oceania and the Samoa Games in Apia last December.

“Ioane’s won his fourth gold medal from the Samoa Games in Apia last December when he knocked out both his last two opponents during the semifinals and the finals to win the gold for American Samoa. He has been representing American Samoa in many International Championships, and we are confident that he will do good in Samoa next week,” Sala explained.

Samoa News caught up with Ioane during one of his training sessions and according to the 23-year-old boxer from Vaiusu, he’s been training so hard for the upcoming tournament and he’s taking it very seriously.

“From what I’ve seen during many International Boxing Championships where I have represented American Samoa in the past, there are many taller fighters that I have to go through in order to win gold, and those are some of the things that me and my trainers have been working together on, in the past two months. I have to prepare myself to face any kind of opponent, whether he’s tall or short, I have to prepare for all of them,” said Ioane.

“We’ve made a few changes and we’ve already felt the benefits for myself, and it’s helped in the completion of my training camp. I have full faith in all my coaches and I trust them totally, and I look forward to showing it when I step inside the ring next month.”

“I really want to win a gold. I want this badly. Now I have to go out and get it,” Ioane said. “It comes down to who wants it more and I want it badly.”

Ioane sense that there has been an increase in intensity in his training routine.

“There has been a shift in focus, the focus has been on a higher level,” he said. “I feel like I’ve hit the ground running. I feel like I’m sharp and focused, more focused than I’ve ever been.”

And Coach Sala said he has seen changes in Ioane’s boxing style during their training.

He told Samoa News, “I am so happy with what he has been showing me during our training sessions. There is more focus when he and I are doing training, the eye contact between us is better than it’s ever been, and it needs to be because this is one of the biggest challenges we have ever had.”

Jolando Taalo won a gold medal for American Samoa during the Oceania Youth Boxing Championships in Samoa in May of this year, which is also a Qualifier Competition for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.

Taalo is training in Samoa and he will be joining the team to prepare for this huge challenge once the team arrives in Samoa next week.

“We are ready and set to defend the Cup that we earned last year in Samoa. We ask our community to show your support while these young warriors are fighting for our country,” Sala said.