Helu set his sights on the world rankings

Panuve Helu ( In the the blue trunks). Photo: Calden Jamieson Photography

On Saturday night at the Ellerslie Event Centre in Auckland, New Zealand’s Panuve Helu (10-1-1) will step into the ring against American Patrick Ferguson (12-0-1), knowing a victory will earn him a spot in the top 15 of the World Boxing Association’s cruiserweight rankings.

The W.B.A is one of the four major boxing sanctioning bodies in the world, and a top 15 ranking for the 23-year-old Helu would open doors worldwide for him and his team.

The Tongan-born cruiserweight fights out of Pridelands Boxing Otara in South Auckland and, since turning professional in 2015, has developed a reputation as one of New Zealand’s top boxing prospects.

A devastating striker, Helu’s last six victories have ended via referee stoppage, but to classify him as simply a fighter with a powerful punch would be doing him an injustice.

Helu’s ability to switch seamlessly between orthodox and southpaw stance allows him to continually create new angles of attack making him as entertaining to watch as he is difficult to defend against.

“When I land we’ll just see what happens,” Helu said after a 12 round sparring session last week.

“Training is going well. I can’t wait,”

In Helu’s corner on Saturday will be his coach and Prideland’s head trainer Aloisio Helu.

 “We have been waiting for these kinds of opportunities for a long time,” said Aloisio.

Aloisio, who is Panuve’s uncle, has been training his nephew since 2012 when Helu was still an amateur. He brings with him international experience having taken the Tongan national boxing team to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and during his time at Pridelands has produced a number of Auckland amateur representatives.

Saturday night is an opportunity not only for Helu, but also for Pridelands; to have one of their fighters achieve a world ranking in the professional scene would help raise the profile of the gym both within and outside of New Zealand. 

The man who will be standing opposite Helu come fight night is currently the seventh highest ranked cruiserweight in the United States and holds the World Boxing Council United States Cruiserweight title.

No stranger to long distance travel in pursuit of his professional goals, Ferguson fought earlier this year in Accra, Ghana.

 A naturally gifted athlete, the 27-year-old Ferguson only began boxing in 2013 but rose to prominence within the United States after claiming a gold medal at the 2015 USA Amateur Boxing National Championships.

Patrick Ferguson.

After turning professional in 2016, Ferguson followed up on the promise he showed at the nationals by finishing his first 10 opponents via either KO or TKO. 

The reputation Ferguson had been building in the States was further enhanced when he was called in to train with the then IBF cruiserweight champion and currently the number three ranked cruiserweight in the world, Murat Gassiev.

He went thirty-three rounds with the steely Russian during his three-week stay at the world-renowned Big Bear training camp.

The experience gave him a front row view of what it takes to reach the pinnacle of the sport. Saturday night’s encounter with Helu will see Ferguson facing a peer as equally focused on reaching the top as he is.

It is rare to have a fight with such high stakes happening on our shores, and it is only down to the relationship between both fighters’ promoters that New Zealand fans are getting the opportunity to witness a fight of this nature.

Helu’s promoter Craig Thomson and Ferguson’s promoter Chauncy Welliver have worked with one another in the past and when the stars aligned both men took the opportunity on offer to give their fighters a chance to enter the business end of world boxing rankings.

“I have been trying to develop an opportunity for Panuve for about 12 months now, something he can really sink his teeth into,” said Thomson.

“If he gets the right results he will start turning a few heads because people, especially stateside know Patrick Ferguson and know what level he operates at.”

Alongside a top 15 W.B.A ranking Saturday’s winner will also claim the vacant Pro Box New Zealand Cruiserweight title. The sanctioning body allows overseas fighters competing with Kiwis to win the belt.

The bout is shaping up to be one of the most exciting international fights held in this country for some time and come Sunday morning New Zealand may wake to find another of its homegrown boxing talents readying for an assault on the world rankings.