Historic South Auckland boxing gym on brink of closure

By Mare Haimona-Riki

The gym that produced world heavyweight boxing champion Joseph Parker, is at risk of closing its doors for good, due to financial hardships as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Papatoetoe Boxing Club not only has a 30-year history of producing the country's top boxers but is also seen as a “safe haven” for the South Auckland youth.

“The gym is important to us because it's helping a lot of local kids. A lot of them would probably be on the streets if they weren't coming here,” says Grant Arkell, who founded the gym in 1990 with his partner, the late Manny Santos. 

The gym has been in the current location in Papatoetoe for 17 years. 

Arkell says the club has never been in a financial crisis like this before. Its main source of income is from the pokie machine grants but the pokies have been collecting dust since lockdown began in late March.

“Our rent was still needing to be paid, and we had no money come in.

“So one of our trustees started up a Givealittle page, and we have seen a lot of success come from that,” says Arkell. 

Joseph Parker started training at Papatoetoe boxing club in 2004 

Joseph Parker, who was only 12-years-old when he first started training at the gym, has been making donations and spreading the word on various media platforms.

“I'm really thankful for that page we set up because I've even had some friends from Vegas text me saying they've chipped in.

“If the gym closes it just shuts off opportunities for those who want to come and be the best in the world, and not only that but it shuts off those who are struggling as well,”  Parker says.  

The gym has just enough money to pay rent until August.

The club has saved almost $14,000 of their $25,000 target.