Impressive Nyika hoping for good news on latest hand injury

Kiwi cruiserweight David Nyika celebrates his knockout victory over Titi Motusaga at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena.

Professional boxing, reflects David Nyika on the line from Brisbane a couple of days after his recent stunning knockout victory, is the entertainment business.

“People want to see blood and guts and I feel like they got a bit of everything in that fight.”

Given Nyika’s early and spectacular two-punch finish against Titi Motusaga on the undercard of the Devin Haney v George Kambosos Jr undisputed world lightweight title fight at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena last Sunday, it’s probably safe to say Nyika lived up to his side of the bargain.

And yet, he also nearly got more than he bargained for. The wide cut on his right cheek, the result of a head clash, was an obvious and potentially serious issue as he continues an impressive start to his professional career, but there was a hidden one too – a sore and swollen right hand, injured in the delivery of the finishing blow – which he revealed this week to 1News.

“My hand is sore and swollen and I’m getting scans on it,” he says.

An injured left hand stopped Nyika from defending his Commonwealth Games titles in Birmingham recently.

“I have got a good protocol now which I do to strengthen and repair my hands. It’s a tough sport – it comes with the territory, you’re going to have sore hands if you punch heads.

“My other one is pretty good now.

“You have to manage your hands – I don’t think it’s going to be a factor.”

As for the cut, which streamed blood and had the potential to stop the fight early, he says: “It looks pretty tidy. I think it’s quite shallow… but I think if the fight went on any longer it would have got a lot deeper. It was quite convenient that it stopped when it did because it could have been uglier.”

Asked whether he felt Motusaga was finished when he delivered the right hand blow which was expertly set up with a left jab, Nyika says: “I was hoping it was. I knew it was flush and I saw he was out on his feet. It wouldn’t have been any good for either of us if the fight continued. The cut was only going to get worse.”

It is the first major cut of his boxing career.

“I’m like Wolverine, I’ll heal up real quick – it might be a cool ring walk for next time.”

More on the ring walks soon.

In the meantime, Nyika says he is hopeful of fighting again in December – subject to the signing of a suitable opponent and the healing of his cheek and hand.

After his latest performance, Nyika, who has been training in Queensland under Noel Thornberry and who has spent time with heavyweights Joseph Parker and Tyson Fury in the north of England, a suitable opponent may not be that easy to find.

Nyika, now 5-0 (with four knockouts) as a professional, is a cruiserweight on the rise and looked very good in passing a big test last Sunday.

Broadcast in New Zealand live on TVNZ1 and to an American audience keen to see whether Haney would win his rematch against Australian Kambosos Jr (he did, again by a wide unanimous decision), Nyika looked composed and compact defensively but also strong and explosive on attack.

He made the most of his physical advantages – he stands 1.98m tall – and effectively made a statement on the world stage by doing the basics well. His finish was the result of a perfect one-two combination, something he had been trying as early as the first round.

“My coach Noel and I have been working tirelessly on, not so much the basics, but the subtleties around the basics,” he says.

“There’s a lot more involved than just throwing a one-two down the barrel. There was setting up the attack with the feints and also getting my feet into position to land that shot.

“I was pretty eager to land it because I knew it was going to be there but I didn’t expect it to land as well as it did.”

David Nyika lands the right hand which knocked out Motusaga.

Nyika, 27, also says his body is maturing to the extent that he doesn’t need to worry about losing too much weight in hard training sessions, something that has been an issue.

“This camp has probably been one of my favourites in the sense that my weight is finally settling. I’m a big cruiserweight and I’m able to train longer and harder without worrying about the weight falling off and the muscle falling off.

“I feel comfortable and big and strong which is probably more important than people realise because I haven’t been able train for long hours and I haven’t been able to do the long runs but now I’m finally finding my form in training, my endurance and base-line fitness as well as being strong and explosive.”

Asked whether his performance could make opponents harder to find, he says: “Knockouts like that probably turn a few people away, but there are still a few guys out there I know want to fight me.

“There’s Junior Tafa [brother of UFC heavyweight Justin], who called me out a few weeks ago. He can get it if he wants to fight. There aren’t many guys putting their hands up.”

Other potential opponents closer to home – Auckland, in fact - are the unbeaten David Light, the New Zealand cruiserweight champion who is 18-0 as a professional and is ranked No.6 in the world by the WBO. The 13-0 Jerome Pampellone is another.

IBF world cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia, right, fighting in his professional debut on the undercard of a Joseph Parker main event in Invercargill in 2015.

Longer term, Nyika could do worse than target Jai Opetaia, the undefeated Australian IBF world champion.

“He’s a complete operator,” Nyika says of southpaw Opetaia. “He’s got speed and endurance. He’s got the will and the drive. I sparred with him in preparation for Mairis Briedis (a fight in July that Opetaia won by unanimous decision despite a broken jaw suffered during it).

“I don’t want to say I was shocked because I knew he was good and I’ve known him since 2011 and he’s always been an animal. He really impressed me.

“I think he and Lawrence Okolie [the United Kingdom’s WBO world champion] right now are the best cruiserweights in the world and I’ve had the opportunity to work with both of them extensively.

“I know I can hold my own with both of them. It’s just a matter of developing and honing my own craft.”

And preferably on free-to-air television, he says.

“If we can keep free-to-air boxing rolling in New Zealand, it’s a perfect way to gain traction at home because that’s important to me. I’ve represented New Zealand on every level, so I’d like to continue that.

“Obviously turning professional there’s a lot more I can do in terms of being in the public eye and doing good for New Zealand. I’d like to build that fan base back at home and just take over from there.”

He will have fun doing it. Nyika walked to the ring last Sunday in a Tarzan outfit as part of his ongoing Disney theme. He has previously dressed up as the bounty hunter from the Mandalorian series.

“It’s a way for me to keep it interesting,” he says.

“I grew up watching Tarzan and Disney. It’s a cool way to express my younger self.”

Like he says, it’s the entertainment business.


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