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Last man standing

Manoj Kumar
Saturday, February 09, 2013

NOT too many boxers have signed off their boxing careers without being knocked out in the ring.

If boxing records are right then it's amazing to note that one local had a colourful professional career without being counted out.

He grew up a "rebellious" child. It was tough stuff for him from when he was still a kid, as he lost his mum aged six.

As a youngster he admired Vunidawa boxer Marika Naivalu He started as an amateur and as a 23-year-old boxed his way into the Fiji team for the Oceania Championship in 1982 where he caught the eyes of many by winning gold. That's Jo Ravudi.

Early fights

Ravudi, from Delaiwaimale, Naitasiri, had some good early fights, especially with Mitieli Navuilawa, who went on to become Fiji heavyweight champion, and Jone Katonivere, who moved on to win the Fiji light heavyweight championship. In 1988, Ravudi won one (points) and drew one against Navuilawa while the first Katonivere showdown ended in a draw. The second time Ravudi faced Katonivere, he faced his first professional defeat, going down on points. He avenged that defeat four years later beating Katonivere on points in 1992. Before that, Ravudi overcame Vanuatu's Phil Kating, American George Tanoa and New Caledonian Raeli Raeli as Fiji saw the emergence of a class boxer.

First title

His ninth round knockout win over Kating in Suva in April, 1989, secured him his first belt - the South Seas light heavyweight title. But three months later, in the return fight in Port Villa, Kating stunned Ravudi on points and took the title away. That's what changed everything. That anger combined with passion, pride, hunger and the will to win drove Ravudi onto stardom. He went undefeated seven years, winning 19 fights, drawing one with one being a no contest. Some well known boxers who beat the dust along the way were Matereti Valu, Waisiki Ligaloa, Atama Matauloki, Mosese Kavika, Apimeleki Tui and Frank Atu, the first Rotuman to become local boxing champion.

Biggest fight

The locals were not the only one who fell prey to his ringcraft and power punches. Dubbed "The Man who never steps back", Ravudi took on Tongan Sione Taliauli for the South Pacific light heavyweight title in Suva in October, 1992. That was a memorable fight as both boxers stood toe-to-toe for most part of the 12 rounds and towards the end of the fight were basically hanging on to each other. It was war and in the end, Ravudi reigned on points to become champion. He was not too happy though with his lapses in concentration at times.

"I got careless in round 10. I always let my left hand drop. That's one of my weaknesses."

Sad end

In October, 1994, he added the vacant Fiji light heavyweight title to his name, knocking out Apimeleki Tui in the ninth round. After that things started to change. In November 1996, Ravudi lost to Samoan Emilio Leti in Apia, while challenging for the South Pacific Heavyweight title. Four months earlier, Ravudi and Ligaloa were given the chance to try and become the first light heavyweight boxers to try and win the Fiji heavyweight title left vacant by Sunia Cama. Ligaloa got his revenge, winning on points over 12 rounds and that's when Ravudi decided to quit.

"I didn't have the pace I used to have before," he said after the fight.

"It's not the way I'd like to go nor the way I wanted this fight to end. It was very close but not close enough." He came back from retirement to have another go at Ligaloa a year later for the Fiji Boxing Council heavyweight crown but failed again, this time the battle ended in a draw. Two more fights, a no contest with Paula Kavika and a draw with Samuela Nabore, brought an end to Ravudi's colourful career. He may not have got the heavyweight title he craved for but Ravudi remains one of few, or maybe the only local boxer, to have fought over 30 professional fights and not being knocked out. He won 23 fights (16 by knockouts), drew six and lost four (all on points).

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