Boxing: Ritani-Coe returning to NZ

Brice Ritani-Coe
Brice Ritani-Coe
Kiwi boxer Brice Ritani-Coe will return to New Zealand next week to face charges of cultivating cannabis and failing to appear in court.

The US-born heavyweight left New Zealand in January, 2008, to dodge sentencing, after he pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis.

Since then he has not been back to the country where he was raised. New Zealand Police issued a warrant for his arrest for failing to appear in court but never pursued an extradition order because it was a minor charge.

Ritani-Coe, who is now based in Las Vegas and owns a 3-2-1 record as a professional, wants to be included on the bill for Sky Arena's Super 8 boxing tournament in June, so he has been in touch with the local authorities and decided to front up.

It's understood he will arrive in New Zealand from the US on Thursday where he will be greeted by the police and his lawyer, and will be taken to the Auckland District Court.

"It's just something that I wanted to get cleared up anyway," Ritani-Coe told the Herald. "I've got to come back for my cousin's wedding too, around the same time, so I thought I'd be able to come to and from New Zealand and Vegas without really having that over my head."

One charge of cultivating cannabis comes with a maximum sentence of two years in prison or a $2000 fine but Ritani-Coe's lawyer, Steve Bonnar, said they may apply for diversion, or for discharge without conviction.

"He's an international sportsman but he's a US citizen so we haven't gone into all those sorts of details as yet," Bonnar said. "My view is he's not at risk of receiving a custodial sentence but obviously at the end of the day that's a matter that the judge is going to have to determine."

Ritani-Coe, 27, was charged in Queenstown and the file will be transferred to Auckland. Detective Lisa Watt, of Queenstown police, said it was likely the boxer would be arrested once he had cleared customs as a matter of process, given he has an outstanding warrant.

"It's not a massive charge but it's had a bearing, certainly at the time, to his travel and his sporting career," Watt said.

Ritani-Coe is the only fighter who has taken Kiwi heavyweight prospect Joseph Parker the distance when Parker won a six-round bout via unanimous decision in California in May.

New Zealand's Kali Meehan, Englishman Michael Sprott and Ireland's Martin Rogan have been confirmed for the Super 8 event.

- by Daniel Richardson of APNZ

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