2006-06-30 04:05:00 UTC
01 July 2006
By ALLAN APTED
Kitione Lave, once New Zealand's most feared heavyweight, has died.
The 72-year-old died in a Beach Haven resthome last month and was
buried in Onehunga.
David Tua, who fought Lennox Lewis for the world heavyweight
title, was one of the many boxing personalities at his funeral.
In his heyday, Lave, aka the Tongan Torpedo, was a household name
in New Zealand.
An older generation of New Zealand boxing fans remember him for
his power and the ability to knock out opponents with either hand.
Johnny Hanks, a former New Zealand dual featherweight and
lightweight champion, was a boxing acquaintance of Lave's and
delivered one of the eulogies at his funeral.
Hanks, who is now 71 and lives in Manukau, has written some of
his recollections of the man he says was a pathfinder for future
Pacific Island boxers:
"The Tongan Torpedo was born Kitione Takitau Lavemai in Tonga on
April 16, 1934.
He sailed to Auckland on the steamship Tofua as a 19-year-old in
Lave held the South Seas heavyweight title when he arrived and
had a record of 12 fights for 10 wins, one draw and one loss.
Seven wins were by knockout.
He was small by heavyweight standards. He stood 1.77m (5ft 10in)
tall and weighed 91kg (just over 200lbs).
Lave had a quiet demeanour outside the ring but there was
absolutely nothing quiet about him in the ring.
His attitude was: hit them hard and hit them first. Many aspiring
sparring partners and opponents discovered this to their dismay.
He quickly became a boxing promoter's dream drawcard: young, good
looking with a broad engaging smile and a knockout punch in
I can still remember clearly his sparring sessions at the then
Auckland CSA gymnasium.
It left fellow boxers (me included) and spectators in awe. As
fast as his handlers were gloving up sparring partners, Lave was
just as quickly dispatching them.
Yet these gallant fellow Islanders would still turn up the
following evening to try to extend him an extra round or two,
usually without success.
The Auckland Boxing Association immediately matched Lave with the
cream of Australasia.
He was an instant hit with the fans as he demolished opponent
Kitione Lave had arrived.
His first setback in New Zealand was at the hands of the vastly
more experienced Englishman Ken Brady who outpointed him.
Lave then campaigned across the Tasman with considerable success
before resuming his career in New Zealand rings.
He got his revenge over Brady with a dramatic knockout in the
12th and final round. He was behind on points at the time.
Another three-fight campaign in Australia preceded Lave's
storming invasion of England and Europe where he opposed the best
of British and continental ringmen.
Many were reigning champions of their respective countries and
holders of the British Empire title.
Among his kayoed opponents was ex-world title challenger Don
Cockell whom Lave beat inside two rounds.
Lave returned to the South Pacific to mount another assault for
the world heavyweight championship then held by all-time great
He won his next 17 bouts, 14 by knockout, before returning to
Europe in 1959.
During this campaign he fought a fighter called Tom McNeeley.
McNeeley, Cockell and another opponent Brian London fought the
likes of Marciano, Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali for the world
This in itself literally speaks volumes of Lave's ring class and
his ability to successfully swap punches with the best in the world.
Kitione retired from boxing in 1964 with an imposing record: 72
bouts, 51 victories (44 by ko), 3 draws and 18 losses.
He dodged no one. He fought some of the best heavyweights in the
world, many of them ranked in the top 10.
There are those in boxing who like to compare fighters from
different eras and discuss among themselves who may have won.
On the night Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks in the first
round to win the undisputed world heavyweight title, I pondered
who would have won if Tyson had met Lave at his peak.
I know who I'd put my money on - and it wouldn't be on Tyson."