Pathway to Podium: Packing a punch

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When it comes to setting goals, Joshua Nyika isn’t afraid to front up for the big punches. And the same applies to his sport. Josh is the top ranked New Zealand welterweight (69kg) currently working towards a spot at the Commonwealth Games and then hopefully Olympic Games selection.

The 25-year-old lives and breathes the sport of boxing and it is also part of the fabric of his family, with both his father Simon and brother David also a force to be reckoned with in the boxing ring.

Unbeaten in New Zealand in more than two years, Joshua thrives on succeeding. And this applies to life outside of the sporting arena also. The hardworking athlete is also a qualified lawyer, managing to combine his sporting and academic goals throughout his years at Waikato University.

Since taking up boxing aged 18, Joshua won his first Elite Open National title in 2014, and won his first international fight a year later at the Oceania tournament in Canberra. Narrowly missing out on Rio Olympics selection, he’s continuing his quest to be fitter, faster and better for the next Olympic Games.

A member of Sport Waikato’s regional talent programme, Pathway to Podium, Joshua focuses on being a well-rounded person as well as an athlete.

Fitness Journal finds out more…

Packing a punch

Joshua Nyika

What motivates you?
I want to challenge myself and improve as much as I can to be the best I possibly can, because this is the reason I believe we are on this earth: to do awesome stuff, and be the best possible version of ourselves. I also want to make the people I care about proud (ironically, it’s the people who care about me, regardless of my success that I want to impress the most). As well as those close to me, I want to establish myself on a wider scale as well.

What are your greatest successes to date?
– 2014 New Zealand National Championships winner in Queenstown;
– 2015 Oceania Continental Boxing Championships Gold Medallist; and
– Representing New Zealand at various Olympic qualification tournaments.

What’s on the cards this year?
I am aiming to solidify my place as the top welterweight in New Zealand boxing early in 2017 at a National ranking tournament, after an early 2017 warm up fight. Then we head overseas to earn a ticket to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018.

What are your future goals?
To win a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and onto higher honours beyond 2018; 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and a possible professional career.

How did you become involved in boxing?
I always considered myself a top athlete individually, involved in athletics, running, and football (soccer), and I didn’t want to be left out of the fun when my younger brother David and Dad got into the sport of boxing. We went down to Ringside Gym in Hamilton and got started.  I had my first fight more than five years ago, in 2011.

What is your greatest challenge?
The most challenging aspect of the sport is the mental fatigue that comes with anticipating competition, the consistent mental and physical preparation, and the high degree of “unknowns” in a sport as chaotic as mine. In each fight we have three fast-paced three minute rounds against another guy who has been training his best to beat YOU, as you are training your best to beat HIM.

The team around you?
– My brother and training partner David Nyika has been a front-runner in the family in terms of boxing, and has set a high standard becoming probably the best amateur boxer New Zealand has ever had;
– My dad Simon who is a highly enthusiastic fan of the sport;
– My coach Rick Ellis, who is highly ambitious, with long-sighted aspirations for us,
– Daniella Meier who oversees my campaigns and keeps me accountable with all the detailed areas of sport that separate the “great” from the “really good”;
– My family and friends who keep the machine rolling with strength.

What does the sport involve in terms of training?
I would normally do each part of training once a day, with extra running fitted in around it for fitness. During tournament preparation, I will do one skill session per day, along with running either in the morning or late at night. Strength is done independently from this in a weights session every two days (only in the off-season). During training camp, we have two days per week of HARD conditioning, which runs for about 40-55 minutes, plus time to warm up, and stretch down afterwards. On these days, I don’t do an additional run or strength session.

What gives you the most pleasure?
The satisfaction and relief that washes over you after a win, and the support and interest you generate from family, friends, and people beyond your inner circle. Also, I enjoy learning what it takes to improve myself from within, which is greatly rewarding. You learn about yourself, what you’re capable of, and what you can improve on in every aspect of your life. Everything else in life starts to become easier when you’ve conquered the big challenges involved in my sport.

What are your long-term goals and what is required to achieve them?
I want to attend and win at these top-level tournaments: Commonwealth Games, World Championships, and Olympic Games. I believe to achieve this I need to figure out and plan objectively (with my team) what needs to be done with a clear head, and then attack these goals by following this path with the kind of craziness/dedication that makes me stand out from the crowd.

How important is goal setting?
Very important. This applies to both my studies and my boxing. I have set my goals, and acknowledged that setbacks along the way are inevitable. I learnt to accept that I will feel plenty of discomfort along the way. That helped me to pull through all the tough times. This has been hugely instrumental in shaping who I am.

Was there a time when you thought of giving up?
I once realised that in among the hard training and all the other challenging aspects of the sport, that I was greatly valuing the downtime (restful time) I spent with my girlfriend. There was a time I considered stopping boxing altogether because it occurred to me that I was enjoying the downtime more than the training or the competition. I had a break from boxing after this, but realised that the downtime doesn’t mean as much without having the hard work to make the restful time special. I learned that there is no blissful comfort without the gruelling discomfort that has to come before it. I guess to live life properly, you need the “yin” AND the “yang”. “Yin” = passive, and “Yang” = active. I have a yin-yang-inspired tattoo on my chest that represents this theme. I decided to continue the sport and embrace the discomfort without thinking twice about it.

What are your favourite local training spots?
Hamilton’s Lake is a cool spot for hill sprints (this is where all the runners go). My favourite hill though is Radnor Street – she’s a steep one! These hill sprints keep my fitness and power up.

Where in the world would you want to train/compete?
In England or the USA (Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or New York). England is a country that I have a lot of love for, having lived there when I was 11-14 years old, and America has a very interesting blend of cultures and history.

What other sports are you are involved in?
– Road running, and I used to do athletics and cross-country back at high school. Managed to win the senior Cross-Country and Athletics championship in my last year (2009) at Hamilton Boys’ High School.
– I was also heavily involved in football (soccer), playing for the HBHS 1st 11, Waikato FC Youth team, and Hamilton Wanderers.

Who inspires you and why?
Conor McGregor – He encourages and deals with pressure in an unbelievable way, and is a courageous risk-taker when accepting the fights.

Floyd Mayweather – Has beaten the world’s best fighters consistently, for a long time. Not only does he win consistently, but he barely gets hit and has managed to overcome plenty of adversity in his career. He has taken on the pressure that Conor McGregor has, except with never losing a fight, and he has done so for decades.

Muhammad Ali – He stood for much more than just himself and his own success. He went against public opinion by standing up for what he believed in (such as not going to fight in Vietnam), which stopped him being able to participate in boxing while he was in his prime. He made political stands at a time when a man of his background was not encouraged to do so.

What advice would you give to others wanting to have a go?
Be ready to endure plenty of discomfort of every kind!

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