Pacific Scoop

Battling Laávasa – Star of Samoan and New Zealand boxing

Quick on the draw: Writer of this report, Julian 'Quick Justice' Slade, lands a combination on Dave Hallett in their professional heavyweight contest at the Auckland Boxing Association stadium.

Pacific Scoop:
Column – By Julian Slade, Photographs by Dave Cameron.

Middleweight legend Tagoa’í Muipu Sagaga – known as Battling La’ávasa – deserves the lofty place he earned himself in New Zealand and Samoan boxing history.

Veteran boxing correspondent Dave Cameron says La’ávasa took New Zealand by storm with his boxing ability and power in either hand.

“La’ávasa had an amazing record and at one stage he was unbeaten after five years as a pro.

“He arrived in Australia in December of 1971 and won all his fights there, including a points win over New Zealand’s Eddie Manuela in Sydney in May 1972.”

ABA OPENING: Tagoa'í Muipu Sagaga – better known as Battling La'ávasa – is pictured with referee and former fighter Ali Afakasi at the opening of the Auckland Boxing Association’s Eden Terrace Stadium in 1992. PHOTOS: Dave Cameron.

Hailing from the village of Salelavalu in the big Samoan island of Savaií, Tagoaí Muipu Sagaga won Samoan and South Pacific Games amateur titles before embarking on a pro career under the ring name Battling La’ávasa.

“La’ávasa proved a godsend for New Zealand boxing,” says Cameron.

“He was an absolute sensation and developed such a strong community following, that a full house was guaranteed whenever he fought.

“His most impressive victory in 1972 was an eighth round TKO stoppage over Eric Blake of England at Brisbane.

BACK IN THE DAY: New Zealand boxing legend Battling La'ávasa pictured in the 1970s.

“That year, La’ávasa also outclassed New Zealand champion Kahu Mahanga in his New Zealand debut at Auckland’s Mandalay Ballroom in August, became the first man to stop Eddie Manuela inside the distance with a round seven stoppage at the Sheraton Hotel Lounge, and beat the highly promising Australian Ray McGrady in a sixth-round TKO thriller at the Auckland Town Hall.”

Mainstream media included comprehensive boxing coverage during that era, and La’ávasa – who got plenty of publicity in the Eight O’Clock Saturday night sports newspaper – became a household name.

Cameron describes La’ávasa as a scientific boxer with a KO punch.

“He was not the whirlwind type of fighter like Kitione Lave, but more of a stylist who was always in control, and cool under pressure.”

Tagoa’í Muipu Sagaga went on to win New Zealand and South Seas middleweight titles. He amassed a proud pro record of 34 wins, two losses and a draw. But the losses came late in his career and Battling La’ávasa will always be remembered as a boxing sensation who fought most of his career with a perfect pro record. A true pioneer of the Kiwi fight game.

KIWI BOXING LEGENDS: Pictured in the ABA ring, at the 1992 opening, are (from left): Paul Ah Van, Kitione Lave, Manny Santos, Jimmy “Thunder” Peau, Lance Revill, Ali Afakasi, Tuna Scanlan, Neil Nili, Eddie Manuela, Tagoa'í Muipu Sagaga (Battling La'ávasa), and Joey Santos.

Tagoa’í Muipu Sagaga, now aged 63 and living in Otara, still attends boxing tournaments in Auckland and boxing fans continue to regard him with respect and admiration.

La’ávasa received a rapturous hero’s welcome when his name was announced at the recent Event Polynesia fight night at the Otara Leisure Centre.

Meanwhile, in other boxing news, Australian amateurs won’t be appearing at the Auckland Boxing Association’s show on Thursday April 29 after all.

But a full amateur card of local fighters will compete before the evening’s professional feature fight, a cruiserweight clash between hard-hitting Tongan Winston Helu and Jeff Stutt, known for his fitness and impressive work rate.

And Shamrock gym head trainer Ron Foley presents a pro-am show at the Auckland Boxing Association on May 8. The veteran coach is well known in New Zealand boxing circles for his early work with international pro Santos Pakau, and for training his own sons and creating a boxing dynasty.

Battling La’avasa – Tagoai’ Muipu Sagaga

Country – New Zealand
Global Id – 47419
Hometown – Auckland, New Zealand
Birthplace – Samoa
Division – Middleweight
Born – 1950-11-26
Stance – Orthodox

Career Record ©

Record to Date

Won – 34 (KOs 14)
Lost – 2
Drawn – 1
Total – 37

Julian Slade is an Auckland-based journalist and boxer who specialises in boxing, Pasifika, and social development reportage.


  1. ren lau, 30. April 2010, 22:50

    I love boxing

  2. wayne rampono, 5. April 2013, 6:19

    im looking for video of eddie manuela