Liam Messam is happy to offer his Fight for Life opponent a hug despite “heated words” as they prepare to go toe-to-toe in the ring.
Messam, a former All Black and Waikato stalwart, hung up his rugby boots in 2022 and is chasing his love for boxing.
The 39-year-old puts on the gloves for the boxing evening for charity Fight for life in Auckland on April 27and says it makes him more nervous than a grand final in front of a packed stadium.
His opponent is former rugby league representative Justin Hodgeswhom Messam met at the event’s press conference several months ago.
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“[He] had some pretty heated words to say about me, I don’t even know the dude. But that’s boxing, it’s part of the sport, people who can talk about the fight are good for the eyes and people want to see those kinds of characters.
“He’s a good person, he has a good heart, but sometimes I think he needs a hug.”
“It will be a challenging fight for myself, so I am preparing and planning to go into the ring with a good plan. Everyone says in boxing, you have a good plan until you get punched in the face. So hopefully we can stick to the plan while I get punched in the face.
Messam is not suggesting that boxing is a career change, he just turned 39, but he has a passion for the sport.
“It’s something I love to do, I don’t fight for world titles, but I love to get in the ring at every opportunity, and fighting on a big card like Fight for Life is a great opportunity for myself, other ex-celebrities or has -beens to get into the ring.
He thinks fitness is very different from rugby.
“I would say I would get ready for a test match any day of the week, but boxing is in the hurt locker twice a day. It’s not fun, but you have to do the work.”
A good friend and former teammate of Sonny-Bill Williams pursuing a boxing careerMessam admits that they often talk about boxing.
“I try to get on his card in his next fight night he has in Australia and I can sneak up there and get in there.
“We are both very new to the sport and learning so much on our own… If I keep learning and growing and have the same mindset I had in rugby then I’m in a good place.”
Messam has been a professional rugby player for 22 years, but admits to having a lot of nerves when he steps through ropes into the boxing ring.
“Oh yes, it’s so hard to explain the feelings and nerves you have. I’d love to run here in front of a packed Waikato stadium for a grand final or whatever, but even getting into a ring to spar makes me nervous – there may only be five people here, but… it’s outside your comfort zone.”
And while he has remained relatively injury free throughout his rugby career, he finds that this is not the case in boxing.
“I’ve been boxing for a few years now and elbows and hands, wrists anything goes. But as long as you take care of the head, that’s the most important thing.”
AT A GLANCE – FIGHT FOR LIFE APRIL 27, 2023
Eventfinda Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore
Charity: I’m Hope by Mike King
IBO Superbantamweight World Title: Mea Motu (NZ 15-0-0) v Tania Walters (CAN 4-1-0)
Andrei Mikhailovic v Edisson Saltarin 19-0-0 IBF Middleweight Pan Pacific Title
Professional light heavyweight bout: Jerome Pampellone (NZ, 15-0-0) vs. Mose Auimatagi (NZ, 15-2-2)
Rugby League v Rugby Union fights:
Justin Hodges (Aus) v Liam Messam (NZ)
Roy Asotasi (NZ) v Sam Tuitupou (NZ)
Sione Faumina (NZ) v DJ Forbes (NZ)