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Beast v Bean: Manu Vatuvei to make professional boxing debut

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Former Warriors star to take on Brown Buttabean in Christchurch on undercard of Parker v Flores, presented by Flooring Xtra

Rugby league superstar Manu ‘The Beast’ Vatuvei will make his professional boxing debut on the undercard of Joseph Parker v Alexander Flores presented by Flooring Xtra at Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena on December 15.

Vatuvei will take on David ‘The Brown Buttabean’ Letele, who is coming out of retirement to help create awareness around New Zealand’s obesity epidemic, and help motivate people struggling with obesity.

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Known as one of the NRL’s toughest players for over a decade, Vatuvei has previous experience in the boxing ring, having defeated Olympic rowing champion Eric Murray in a corporate bout in 2012.

The 32-year-old, who tipped the scales at 112kg during his league playing days, scored 152 tries for the Warriors in 226 NRL appearances.

Vatuvei will now attempt to join the likes of Anthony Mundine, Paul Gallen, Solomon Haumono, Monty Betham and Sonny Bill Williams in the ranks of rugby and league players to forge successful careers in professional boxing.

“I still feel I’ve got a lot to offer as a professional athlete and I’ve always loved boxing,” says Vatuvei.

“This is no experiment. I am seriously considering a long-term contract in Australia.

“I want to finish my sporting career with a decent crack at becoming an accomplished professional boxer.

“I definitely see myself dedicating the coming years to the sport and seeing where it takes me.

“This fight is a tough start to my career and a huge challenge. But I’m confident I’m up to it.”

Vatuvei has enlisted elite striking coach Lolo Heimuli – whose charges include Mark Hunt, Shane Cameron and Ray Sefo – to prepare him for the fight.

“Manu has a huge amount of natural talent,” Heimuli says. “It’s very exciting to be working with him.”
The fight gives Vatuvei a chance to avenge the defeat of his brother ‘Horse’, who was beaten by Letele in the ‘Brown Buttabean’s’ first ever boxing match on the undercard of Joseph Parker’s victory over Brian Minto.

Letele tipped the scales for that fight at 168 kilograms. These days he weighs in at a svelte 110 kilograms, and devotes much his time to helping Kiwis who are dealing with the crippling health impacts of morbid obesity.

“I know I was a bit of dick at times when I first adopted the Buttabean persona,” Letele says. “But I’m pretty sure people know that was an act. Boxing helped change my life – I lost over half my body weight – and I’ve dedicated my life to helping others dealing with the negative impacts of obesity.”

Letele’s Buttabean Motivation (BBM) movement now has over 11,000 members in its private facebook group.

“The BBM team have had some great successes helping those who badly need it – but there is still so much work to be done,” Letele says. “I’m coming back to spread that message. My journey continues – start yours today.”

Don Barry, CEO of Flooring Xtra, said he was delighted the company was throwing its support behind Team Parker and what will be a fantastic night of thrilling sport in Christchurch.

“We’re huge fans of Joseph Parker and it is fantastic to be able to play a part in his journey back to the very top of the heavyweight division,” Mr Barry said.

“And, obviously this event isn’t just about Joseph – it’s an incredible boxing card that will thrill fans in Christchurch and throughout the country. We just can’t wait!”

The Beast vs Bean bout – which will be contested over the professional distance of four three-minute rounds – is part of a sizzling support card to Joseph Parker’s must win clash with dangerous American slugger Alexander ‘The Great’ Flores.

The main undercard sees WBO No. 10 Junior Fa defend his WBO Oriental Title against Argentine former world cruiserweight contender Rogelio Omar Rossi.

Other highlights include:

Canterbury star Bowyn Morgan – Current IBO Asia Pacific super welterweight champion

New Zealand Cruiserweight showdown – David Light (NZ #1) – Former Commonwealth silver medalist, takes on “Buster” Lance Bryant (NZ #2).

Megan McLennan faces current NZ Muay Thai champion Michaela Jenkins in a five-round professional contest for the PRO Box NZ Woman’s Welterweight Championship

MAIN EVENT
International Heavyweight Contest (10×3 min rounds)
Joseph Parker, NZ 24-2 (18KO) vs Alexander Flores, USA 17-1 (15KO)

MAIN UNDERCARD
Heavyweight Contest – WBO Interim Oriental Heavyweight title fight (10×3 min rounds)
Junior Fa, NZ 15-0 (8KO) vs Rogelio Omar Rossi, ARG 20-6-1 (13KO)

UNDERCARD
7th TV fight
PRO Box Pacific Welterweight Championship (10×3 min rounds)
Bowyn Morgan, NZ 18-1 (8KO) vs TBC

6th TV fight
Cruiserweight (6×3 min rounds)
David Light, NZ 9-0 (6KO) vs Lance Bryant, NZ 12-4 (5KO)

5th TV fight
Special Heavyweight Attraction (4×3 min rounds)
David ‘Brown Butterbean’ Letele, NZ vs Manu Vatuvei, NZ (pro debut)

4th TV Fight
NZ Women’s Welterweight Championship (6×2 min rounds)
Megyn McLennan, NZ vs Michaela Jenkins (NZ Muay thai Champion)

3rd TV fight
Middleweight (6×3 min rounds)
Andrei Mikhoilovich, NZ 4-0 vs Adrian Taihia, NZ 15-4-2 (7KO)

2nd TV fight
Lightweight (6×3 min rounds)
Richie Hadlow, NZ vs Dom Reed, NZ

1st TV fight
Heavyweight (4×3 min rounds)
Sam Watts, NZ debut vs Alaister Boyd, NZ 1-2-2

Pre-broadcast
Heavyweight (3×2 min rounds)
Quintin Poole, NZ v Bjorn Horrack, NZ

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