FIFITY Eight year-old Viliame Tabualevu was believed by many to be one of the country's most promising heavyweight boxers who could have hit the big time had he continued his boxing career.
He was on the verge of leaving to fight in the United States of America's mainland when his destiny was decided to him by his family after his mother Alanieta Sotia Tabualevu and his wife Bulou Vuta asked him to throw the towel in.
"I came home from training one evening and I saw my mother and wife waiting for me at home," Tabualevu said.
"I thought somebody had died but when I sat down they presented me with a yaqona and revealed the purpose of the occasion."
"My mother said they've had a discussion and decided to ask me to stop boxing."
Despite the promising colourful career and great opportunities that had just opened up for him Tabualevu respected his mum and wife's wishes and hung his gloves.
The Somosomo, Taveuni man was training with then Fiji's Golden Boy Sakaraia Ve under the Ramos club.
"Ramos and the promoter thought that I was joking or had gone mad to turn down such a lucrative offer and many times they came home to try and convince me to change my mind.
"But I had given my word to my mother and that was it."
Tabualevu is currently a church elder with the Kinoya Methodist Church and is the chairman of the church's development committee.
Now that he looks back at his life Tabualevu wishes he was given the chance to relive it.
The born-again Christian said now that I had found this new commitment and life in Christ I saw my life then as similar to a worn-out clothing overused." (Au raica lesu noqu bula e vaka e dua na I sulu tavoraki.)
He is urging youngsters of today to totally commit their lives to God and he will bring out the best in their talents and help them live a more meaningful and purposeful life. They will succeed in sports and whatever field they put their hands on.
It is an impressive personal testimony of someone who in his youth was jailed for three years for liqour-related crimes of assault, damaging property at his village in Somosomo.
Tabualevu took up boxing in prison under the guidance of fellow prisoner Iowane Vakadranu, the younger brother of former heavyweight champion Sakiusa Cawaru and Buli Bulamaibau of Dreketi, Qamea.
He was in the same prison as Matanuku, Kadavu brothers Josefa Nitiva and Matereti Valu.
They all took up the sport from inside and ended up as champions of their own outside prison with Nitiva winning the welterweight gold medal in the 1979 South Pacific Games held in Suva.
Tabualevu missed the opportunity to fight in the SPG because of what he called unfair treatment from boxing officials.
"I had just got off the plane after beating New Caledonian champion Thomas in Noumea and was told to fight in the final trial at the PWD gym," he said.
Tabualevu was quite ahead on points when a wild punch from Sowane Wainiqolo hit him and knocked him out.
In fact I watched that fight and it was all his fault. He should have ended that fight earlier but decided to toy around and show off to the crowd at the PWD gym in Walu Bay.
During a lapse of concentration Wainiqolo threw a righ that caught Tabualevu just behind the left ear. He went down like a chopped banana tree.
Wainiqolo was selected to represent Fiji in the SPG and lost in his first match.
The New Caledonian went on to win the heavyweight gold medal.
Tabualevu took up boxing to keep him busy and out of prison. But boxing in prison was not allowed and they improvised by using government issued prison towels as gloves.
"As soon as the metal click of keys on the door sounded signaling the approach of a prison officer we would quickly hide everything and act as if nothing was happening and would continue boxing after the guard disappeared," Tabualevu said.
Tabualevu came out of prison in 1977 and joined Sakaraia Ve in the Ramos club.
They pitted him, a novice, against then reigning amateur heavyweight champion Usaia Daunivalu and he won.
He cleaned up the heavyweight division becoming a champion in his first year doing the same in 1978 and 1979 until that unfortunate incident.
New Caledonia's Thomas had also been reigning champion in the amateur ranks in the South Pacific countries and Tabualevu ended that reign in Noumea.
"I knocked him out in the second round. Before he came for the games and heard that I was not selected he was overjoyed," he said .
Tabualevu's mentor Vakadranu told him that if he took up boxing he would go a long way because he had the height and reach and advised him to beef up his body with training.
Tabualevu said he no longer watched boxing nowadays because boxers lacked fitness and style and commitment.
"I lived in Nailuva Road and ran from there daily to Colo-i-Suva or Nausori as part of my training," he said. "I did my hill running at Wailoku."
"I came out and began training when it was mango season and would often end my training at the Anglican Church in Gordon Street near the Ramos club at the back of Courtesy Inn.
"There was a big mango tree and I would climb up the tree and have fresh mango as lunch. From there I would go to the gym to work on the punching bag and sometimes bursting it."
Many have approached him to train them but he would lay out his conditions as prerequisite for anyone who wants to train under him.
He will not smoke, drink liquor or kava and be disciplined. Once those conditions are met then he would be willing to train boxers.
"If not it's just a waste of time, money and energy. If you want to take up boxing then you will have to make sacrifices to give up those things," Tabualevu said.
"That was how I won the heavyweight (amateur) title."
He believes in the adage of no pain, no gain, no glory
Tabualevu turned professional after missing out on the 1979 SPG team.
One of the highlights of his professional career was knocking out Fiji boxing champion Filimoni Naliva with a kidney punch, a killer punch taught to him by another former heavyweight champion Sakiusa Cawaru, from Dreketi, Qamea..
The two met at Govind Park, Ba and southpaw Naliva underestimated the young Taveuni man and threw a wild left.
"I moved right and caught him with a body punch on his left side just below the rib cage and he folded up in pain," Tabualevu said.
"While he was writhing with pain on the floor I heard his cornermen advising him in the Ba dialect to clutch the front of his pants and claim a foul blow."
"The referee gave in to the home crowd and disqualified me for a foul blow," he said.
At the moment Tabualevu is leadigng a group of volunteers from Kinoya Methodist Church in repairing the Furnival Park podium, which will be the venue of this month's revived Methodist Church choral festival.
He has been training a number of youngsters in Kinoya and all they have is a punching bag filled with retread tyre cuttings and he hopes that somebody will finance proper training equipment
He still believes that Fiji boxers have the potential to win gold medals in Olympic Games but they needed guidance not only physically and mentally but also spiritually.
He has been through the rough and tumble of life and he believes he can help youth reach their full potential in boxing without the wastage of making the same mistakes he had done.