Auckland-born Samoan fighter Alrie Meleisea will fight Lani Daniels for the IBF world heavyweight title. Credit: Redline Combat Academy / YouTube
Alrie Meleisea is already in training camp for the 'fight of a lifetime' with Lani Daniels (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) for the IBF world heavyweight title in May in Auckland, her manager and trainer Vasco Kovačević says.
Unlike Daniels (6-2-2, 0 KO), who has a 'tune-up' fight in March against Palmerston North boxer Sequita Hemingway (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Tūhoe), Auckland-born Samoan fighter Meleisea (6-1-1, 0 KO) has gone directly into training camp and has no plans for a similar warm-up fight.
"Nah, we've gone straight into our training camp, it's started," Kovačević told Te Ao. "We've got a few things to achieve."
"This will open the world to both of the ladies. It's not one of the lower-ranked belts. It's one of the most prestigious out there."
Trainer and fight promoter Vasco Kovačević. Credit: Gladrap Channel / YouTube
Kovačević has been alongside Meleisea, 29, as she fought MMA, kickboxing and grappling fights and now boxing.
"We have a long relationship. I've known and trained her for 10 years."
"Alrie can be quite aggressive when everything comes together. She's very talented, a very special fighter. When she aligns everything, she's unstoppable."
Kovačević is also the fight's promoter and is vying for the vacant WBO world heavyweight title to also be put on the line when Meleisea and Daniels fight for the IBF world title in four months' time in Auckland.
"We're still waiting for an answer (from the WBO). We haven't got a yes or no. The process can be quite slow."
He says he is uncertain which way the WBO will decide but admits the sanctioning body may choose to "prolong (the process) in a business sense".
"They could decide 'yes' but the winner (of the IBF title fight) will fight for unification - in the United States.
"I'm not 100 per cent sure but I know what my heart wants."
Opportunity of a lifetime
Kovačević says Meleisea is "refining her strategy" for her match-up against Daniels but ultimately is "not going to leave any stone unturned" in her efforts to become world champion.
The IBF fight will be the first between two New Zealand-born boxers and also the first involving Māori and Pasifika fighters for a world crown.
"I'll be honest, I've been in boxing for 20 years. In reality, we've got an opportunity with two boxers born in New Zealand to have the opportunity for something that's never been done in New Zealand before, for something that a Pacific Islander has never attempted.
"This fight is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to one of these wāhine. It's a proper world title show.
"We're stamping our mark on the world combat stage. We're exposing women's boxing in a way it deserves to be exposed and showing that we've got even more talent in New Zealand."
Kovačević is currently in talks with Whakaata Māori and Sky TV to have the historical event televised.