Tongan World Cup star Siosiua Taukeiaho is set to make a shock heavyweight boxing debut before Christmas — and has been secretly sparring some of Britain’s best amateurs between Cup games in preparation.
Following the success of crossover fighters like Paul Gallen and Sonny Bill Williams, two-time NRL premiership winner Taukeiaho is now readying for the move himself, aged 30.
Speaking with Fox Sports Australia overnight from Middlesbrough — where the Tongans face Cook Islands in their next pool game — the 108kg enforcer revealed he is currently working with England’s former WBA middleweight champ Martin Murray.
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Between Cup games, the Tongan powerhouse meets with Murray to not only learn from the former British, Commonwealth and interim world champion, but also spar the now coach’s stable of rising prospects.
Should his Cup campaign finish anywhere before the final, Taukeiaho will rush back Down Under to appear on the November 23 card headlined by Paul Gallen and Justin Hodges.
If however, Tonga goes all the way to the last game as he hopes — “and this is the best side we’ve ever had,” the prop says — it will be a December debut.
While Taukeiaho has been preparing for his boxing crossover since June, the prop reveals his association with Murray was only finalised a day before departing for England.
He said it was during a meeting with boxing manager Pete Mitrevski, who oversees the likes of rising stars Harry Garside and Sam Goodman, that he decided to take a fight this year.
Taukeiaho says Mitrevski praised his power and speed, stressing it was every bit as good as Australia’s fellow footballers-turned-fighters.
“And I’ve been told a few times by guys holding pads that I have power,” the prop conceded when pushed on his conversation with manager who was himself a former boxer.
“But I just thought trainers say that to all their fighters.
“But the day before flying out for the World Cup, I just did a session with Pete — pads, bag work, stuff like that — and afterwards we had a good chat about me taking this seriously because of my power and speed.
“Previously, I’ve never taken boxing seriously. It was more about keeping fit for footy season.
“But Pete said I could do things in the sport. And after hearing that, it made me realise this could be a good opportunity to test myself, chase the dream.”
After eight years and 168 games for the Roosters — including consecutive NRL premierships from 2018 — the prop is headed to French club Catalans for 2023.
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However, he says the plan will be to return Down Under after each season, if Catalans give him the green light, to chase summer boxing fights.
Elsewhere, South Sydney prop Daniel Fifita is another league who could appear on the November card set to double as Gallen’s farewell.
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“Obviously my main goal is winning this World Cup with Tonga,” Taukeiaho stressed. “That’s the one thing we’re here for.
“And while we haven’t played our best footy yet, we feel it’s coming.
“I feel this is the best team we’ve ever had.
“But I’ve also been working with Martin over here so that if the fight in November does go ahead, I’m ready.
When it comes to potential opponents, Taukeiaho said he was happy to throw down against anyone — or almost anyone.
Asked if he could ever picture a showdown with SBW, he said: “Sonny is like a brother to me.
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“When I moved to the Roosters from New Zealand, he was already there and really looked me and mentored me – did it for all the Polynesian boys.
“So fighting him, that will never happen.
“He’s pushed so many Polynesian boys to follow their dreams, and I’m one of them.
“I’ve got so much respect for him.”