The relationship between an athlete and their coach can mean the difference between success and greatness.
Would Peter Snell be athlete of the century if it wasn’t for Arthur Lydiard? Can we hear the name Tom Brady without thinking of Bill Belichick?
Ahead of her title defence on Saturday night, New Zealand’s IBO super bantamweight world champion Mea Motu and her Peach Boxing trainer are busy making their own legend – but exactly which Peach is in her corner may surprise some.
While many eight-year-old kids are busy learning day to day, Zen Peach is also spending his afternoon’s after school giving out the lessons.
His No.1 student? Motu.
“He’s worked every day, hustled by my side every day and he’s come in here morning and night and just given everything to me,” Motu told 1News.
“It means the world.”
Zen’s dad Issac runs Peach Boxing and was the first to recognise a champion in the mum of five but it was his son that earned her trust at the gym.
“We have a special bond and no one can take that away from me,” she said.
“I’ll trust him over anybody.”
Zen said the trust goes both ways.
“Her last fight, I trained every day with her, I think I just saw something in her,” Zen said.
And for whatever reason, it was Zen who was able to get through to Motu when his dad couldn’t.
“He drilled it in me every day – D every day he’d come out in to the gym and just practice with me and be like, ‘no that’s terrible, no’ and he was real honest.
“He’d say, ‘that’s shit, how come dad can’t teach you to throw a right hand’?”
Zen’s recount of the story is as brutally honest.
“It wasn’t powerful or fast – it was just a little slow right hand that wasn’t hard or fast so I had to fix it,” he explained.
“I told her to turn the right hand, turn it over and twist the leg with it to make it hard and fast and then we kept drilling it for ages. It took a few months but then she got it right.”
Motu’s fights have now become a real family affair for the Peachs with Zen’s mum Alina also in the fighter’s corner.
While she initially thought Zen’s influence with Motu was a “joke”, she like many others has come to realise just how important the tag-team is.
“We just thought Mea was being really kind and entertaining Zen and going along with it and so we were like, ‘thanks Mea, thanks for letting Zen do this’ but then we quickly realised that they were for real and Zen was actually not wrong in what he was telling her,” she said.
“And she was taking it all in and for whatever reason it works – she does really well listening to him and he’s teaching her good stuff.”
And in case anyone is wonder, the littlest boxing trainer in New Zealand has big predictions for Saturday’s world title defence against South Africa’s Ellen Simwaka.
“I reckon probably inside five rounds Mea will knock her out to the body.”
Motu backs her trainer’s call – so long as he’s there to see it on Saturday night.
“When it comes to that corner I have to hear him,” she said.
“I’m gonna win it with him right by my side.”