Boxing: New Super 8 challenge for wily pro

After 17 years as a professional heavyweight boxer, Kali Meehan has experienced most things.

He has trained a short distance from the ghettos in Florida, held 10 different title belts, fought in two world title eliminators, and challenged for the WBO title in 2004.

Meehan, whose record is 38 wins from 43 fights, will find himself in unfamiliar territory when he fights in the inaugural Super 8 tournament in Auckland in June.

The tournament will feature five internationals and three New Zealanders competing in a knockout (quarterfinal, semifinal, final) format, with fights over three rounds.

The winner of the tournament will pocket $200,000 and the runner-up $100,000.

Meehan (43) was in Dunedin this week, and the 194cm Australian-based New Zealander was bullish about his chances.

''I think it's easier than a one-on-one fight.'' Meehan said.

''You can go hard for three rounds, rest and then do it all over again.''

He has not boxed competitively since 2012 but had started training about a month ago and was keen to add to his list of 31 knockouts.

The tournament will be Meehan's first fight in New Zealand since 1998.

''It's going to be fun and I can't wait to put on a show for family and friends.''

Meehan is something of a forgotten heavyweight in New Zealand.

Between 2003 and 2010, when the spotlight was on Shane Cameron and David Tua, his career peaked. He felt he never got the credit he deserved, but was not angry.

''I am not bitter because if I was, it would drive me insane,'' Meehan said.

In 2003, on the back of a 27-win, one-loss record, Meehan went to Florida and sparred with John Ruiz as he prepared for a world title fight.

''It was near one of the worst ghettos in Florida, and when I went for a run, I had to make sure I was running towards the wharf and not the opposite direction.

''Police would stop me on the way back to make sure I was not lost and running into the hood.''

When he first turned up, it was like a scene from a mafia movie with all the ''old timers'' watching closely.

''No-one would shake my hand or acknowledge me, so I copied Ruiz while he prepared with shadow boxing and skipping and then I gave it everything,'' Meehan said.

''I had proved myself and everyone then shook my hand.''

Don King then offered him work as Lamon Brewster's sparring partner as Brewster prepared to face Wladimir Klitschko for the WBO title.

Brewster went on to win by TKO, and five months later, Meehan found himself living his dream and challenging for the title.

Meehan lost a controversial split decision, but the experience was something he would never forget.

''To walk into that ring and know I was part of something that big was the best feeling, but I was so close to the ultimate prize.''

Later that year, he lost to Hasim Rahman while fighting with a neck injury before stringing together six wins and then losing a WBA title eliminator against Ruslan Chagaev in Germany in 2010.

Meehan now trains his son, Willis (18), who will represent Australia as a super-heavyweight in the Commonwealth Games.

He said boxing had not made him rich - he has been doing some work in the mines in Perth - but he had a good home, a loving wife of 22 years and three sons, so life was good.

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