West Auckland boxing coach Isaac Peach trains four undefeated world-ranked fighters at his gym. Photo / Michael Bradley
The rise of West Aucklander Isaac Peach as a world-class boxing trainer takes a huge step at the AO Arena in Manchester next week, when David Light fights for the WBO cruiserweight title.
oversized garage set amongst Henderson Valley bush, plumber Peach has already produced four world-ranked undefeated fighters, but has set his sights much higher than that.
With his wife Alina and brother Boaz central figures in the Peach Boxing team, it’s a family-based operation that is also a home away from home for fighters who are realising their dreams of taking on the world.
Aucklander Light goes up against England’s Lawrence Okolie on March 26, and a month later Mea Motu will fight Tania Walters of Canada for an IBO title in Auckland. Andrei Mikhailovich and Jerome Pampellone are also waiting in the wings, with title shots looming.
Added to that, rugged Kiki Leutele was impressive in defeat against the rising Australian heavyweight star Justis Huni in Brisbane late last year.
Peach, who held the New Zealand super middleweight title a decade ago, initially hurled himself into training others as a way to deal with his own alcoholism. But it has turned into something much bigger than he imagined.
Peach gives the low down on Light’s big fight and more.
Are you confident of the setup for David Light’s title fight in Manchester?
We go in there and deal with it as it comes. I’m not experienced — I’ve never been to Manchester or had a guy in a world title fight before. We’re pretty basic people who will be there to do a job. We’re not glamorous, but I know we’re ready to fight.
Normal teams bring heaps of people but we’ll be just a small team — David, myself and my brother. We’ve done all the hard work here.
What can you tell us about Lawrence Okolie?
He’s a great fighter, big and strong, and believes his own hype. He doesn’t look at David as a challenge — that’s my feeling. He’s looking well beyond David but this is everything for us, our big shot. I’ve boxed with and trained David for 15 years — this is the pinnacle of what we’ve been doing.
What are David Light’s strengths?
His fitness and mental strength are crazy. Determination is his biggest thing. An example is his last fight — nobody wanted to fight Brandon Glanton, a big strong American who was knocking everyone out. David stood toe-to-toe with him. It was pretty incredible.
Give us an overview of David, his personality and background?
He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. He’s not your typical boxer.
He’s a strong athletic dude, but it’s just his mannerisms. He looks like he wants to go to the library, not boxing. David turns up at weighs-ins and people laugh. He’s awkward and doesn’t look like a boxer. Next day he beats the living crap out of them.
He works at his family business — they do baby formula. It’s kind of weird — you’ve got boxers who come from shit and the sport saves their life. David comes from wealth — he was home-schooled and all that sort of thing — and it’s almost done the same thing for him, even though he’s coming from a different end.
When I first met David he was very socially awkward. He loves boxing to this day because it brings this normal side to his life.
You are building quite a stable – where have your boxers come from?
All my boxers are people who have been around, misfits who find a home here. Everyone is allowed to be themselves which seems to really work, whereas at other gyms they felt uncomfortable.
Jerome Pampellone was my next-door neighbour a couple of houses ago — he’d never boxed before. He came over and wanted to train on my deck — he was very shy, and was standing by my letterbox with his hoodie on. This was when I was drinking. It was basically a deck with ropes around it. Jerome was like any other beginner, but he got better really quickly. It was freakish.
Andrei Mikhailovich used to train somewhere else — he came for a sparring session. David quit the amateurs and was on a two-year break, not wanting to box again. I forced him back into it.
I had boxed with Mea Motu — she went away from boxing for eight years. She turned up on my doorstep with a four-month-old baby and a one-year-old and said she wanted to do some training. I told her ‘you are going to turn pro and become a champion of the world’. True story. She came in, put the baby on the table and had dinner.
You mentioned the drinking…
It’s nearly six years since I had a drink. I was a pretty serious drinker but at 35, I gave it away.
It took me low — I was on the verge of losing my family, everything. It was pretty bad. I tried rehab and all that but none of it worked. I used my kids and the gym. I threw all my time into boxing.
It took me a year of hell to get to a point where I was comfortable, in the clear. To be able to give up an addiction, the biggest thing is to fill up the time. Boxing is a thing you put a shit load of time into — that was my rehab really.
What are your training tips?
I have my own ideas, there’s trial and error, but a lot of it is about attitude and belief. One of my biggest strengths is making them truly believe they are good enough and the secret to that, I think, is ticking off all the boxes so there are no doubts. It’s about what each athlete needs — they are all different.
For instance David does a lot of sprints, running, stuff like that. It’s really important to him to get certain times so he knows he’s ready to go a certain number of rounds. Mea doesn’t give a crap about that stuff. For her it might be about doing a certain amount of rounds in training.
How did you find boxing – what do you recall about your first fight?
I was brought up in West Auckland — I went to a fight night when I was about 18 and loved that, went to a gym, and have pretty much been a boxer ever since. My first fight? Scary. Crazy. Loved it. I fought another trainer, Vasco Kovacevic from Red Line — I think it was his only fight. We’re still friends today. Boxing is a drug — once you start, it’s hard to give it away.
It sounds like a hectic life – you train 12 fighters, run a gym, own a plumbing business, have four kids under nine, promote fight nights…
It’s pretty crazy. It’s a real juggling act but the gym is at our home, and even my one-year-old boxes. The kids live in the gym, it’s part of what we do. My wife Alina is a big part of it. She helps with the training — she had 15 fights. You get used to living in chaos.
The jandals are ever present – is that what you will wear ringside in Manchester?
My missus likes dressing up, but I don’t like flash. Wearing what I wear keeps it real. And I want all these guys to do really well, but stay who they are.
I’ll wear the jandals at Manchester — it will be cold, but I’m doing it.
World boxing is no place for the faint hearted – what are some of your experiences?
We’ve been to America a couple of times with David. I don’t know what I’m doing: arriving and learning on the job — there is no book on how to deal with that.
What have we found? Just the dislike for us, from the other camp. You don’t get treated the best in other people’s backyard. But we thrive on that. I love that stuff.
When we fought Anthony Martinez in Miami, we had all these altercations. There was a guy who stood looking at me all week, saying nothing. David knocked him out in the first round and the Cubans were yelling at us and went ballistic. The guy starts crying, gets in the ring and tries to attack us. I find out it’s the guy’s (Martinez’s) father. We had our car at the back of the stadium — we didn’t change and just got out of there.
We got treated really badly, there was a lot of lying going on. But as a trainer, I protect my fighters. I’m basically a security guard — no one f**** with my fighters. That’s my number one thing. I do whatever it takes to keep them sweet to fight, physically and emotionally.
Any rising prospects you can tell us about?
There’s a new one actually, Zain Adams. He’s 51kg and 1.7 metres. No one knows him — but he’s very good.
What are your long-term aims?
We do boxing because we want world champions. All of these guys have one dream. The rule, coming into the gym, is you’ve got to be good enough to win a world title, or good enough at sparring to help someone else win a title.
As a team and a club we are proud and determined. When I started I didn’t have any dreams for this. Now my dreams are big — I want to have the best gym in the world.