Mafi Shares Skills, Knowledge With Boxers

Fourty-four years later he may not be dancing but is still very much involved in the sport he loves. Hailing from Lovoni in Ono-i-Lau, Setoki Mafi, was one of the last bunch of talented amateur boxers to have represented the country.
25 Sep 2020 15:12
Mafi Shares Skills, Knowledge With Boxers
Setoki Mafi is now a referee and judge at amateur boxing programme. Photo: Leone Cabenatabua

He’s now a retired Sergeant Major from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF).

Fourty-four years later he may not  be dancing but is still very much involved in the sport he loves.

Hailing from Lovoni in Ono-i-Lau, Setoki Mafi, was one of the last bunch of talented amateur boxers to have represented the country.

“It was probably when I took up the sport in 1976, it was still run by the two pioneers of amateur boxing in the country, Commander Stan Brown and Harry Charman,” Mafi said.

“Everything they did was based on merit. Before selecting the Fiji team to participate at any national championship or overseas tour, Commander Brown and Mr Charman always call for a trial.

“From the trial, the winners from each division are selected into the Fiji One team while the losing finalists are in the Fiji Two squad.

“Then after the tour or championship, the Fiji One team takes on the Fiji Two team and then they rate the boxers accordingly. When I say merit, I mean you are rated on your winning record.”

With such high standards, Mafi said, this inspired amateur boxers at that time to lift their game.



“I was on a five-year apprenticeship at the Marine in Walu Bay,” he recalled.

“I always love training, especially when it comes to running. So every morning I run from Tovata to Walu Bay to work.

“After work, I go over to the then PWD Canteen, which was next door to my work place to train under coach Inosi Kania before running back to Tovata.”

Mafi fought in the welterweight division and his club mates were Mesake Tamani, Sakaraia Vuli, Livai Niumataiwalu and Pauliasi Ratu.

“Then later on lighter weight boxers of Asesela Vanisi, Jimilai Lui and Vereniki Raiwalui joined us along with heavyweight boxers Viliame Tabualevu and Sunia Coriakula,” he said.

Mafi said for training, he usually does a lot of shadow boxing and works on different styles.

“It’s about the positioning of our body when throwing a punch, your defensive stance and how to counterpunch your opponent based on their style,” he said.

“It was during one of my shadow boxing session when I heard the sound of a plane flying over. I promised myself that day, that this sport is going to take me places, especially flying in a plane.”

This materialised in 1979 when Mafi was selected in the national team to fight in Noumea, New Caledonia.

“Other boxers that went with me were Pauliasi Ratu, Anthony Naidu and Sikeli Veitala. I was the only boxer that won as I knocked out my opponent in the second round.

“Then in 1980, I was in the Fiji team that fought in New Zealand. I lost on points in the first fight in Wellington but in the second fight in Papakura, I managed to score a knockout win,” he said.

Mafi said he had 54 amateur fights (which includes international fights) where he lost eight with 46 wins.

“There were fights I had dispute the decision made but that‘s sports and time moves on. I lost twice on points to Joe Nitiva who went on to win the 1979 South Pacific Games gold medal with Kamisese Vaubula while Anthony Naidu won the silver.”



Mafi said it was a pity that he did not turn professional.

“I was because I was a civil servant and I needed the work to support my wife and children,” he said.

After completing his five-year apprenticeship, he worked with the Government’s Shipbuilding and was promoted as a supervisor in 1987.

“The coup happened and I was transferred to the Fiji Navy. In 1988, I was again transferred to work with the Ministry of Youth and Sports maintenance unit based at Walu Bay. We were under the command of Colonel Inoke Luveni.

“When the unit was dissolved, I was again transferred to the RFMF,” Mafi said.

Mafi said after Commander Brown and Charman, in came Hector Hatch and Abraham Thomas to run the Fiji Amateur Boxing Association.

“I’m always a straight shooter. If I saw something is wrong I’ll address it right then. I was not happy when I was not selected to represent Fiji and a challenge fight against Australia at the Laucala Bay Hangar. All our boxers lost to the Aussies and I disputed the team selection with Abraham Thomas publicly and from there I knew my time was up so I moved on.

“Later, we made up with Abraham and it is part and parcel of sports,” he said.



While at the RFMF camp in 2012, Mafi was approached by then Pita Driti and the late Samisoni Kafoa to help in reviving local amateur boxing.

“It’s been a long journey for me and I’m happy where we are at this stage,” he said.

“Along the way I always acknowledge the support of the late Napoleon Taumoepeau and my buddy Osea Nanovu for their sacrifice and commitment to the sport.”

Looking forward, Mafi said, there were still a lot of work to help and develop amateur boxing to where it was before.

“There interest is always there and we’ve got a good team working as officials,” he added.

For him, this is not the end of the road but a blessed way to share his retirement in helping young people utilise their talents to make it in life.

Edited by Karalaini Waqanidrola






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