Reflecting On Joe Parker/South Auckland and Issac Luke/Maori Culture



Watching a heavyweight boxing fight can often be a bit tedious. Tyson Fury's shenanigans since beating Vladimir Klitschko have been exciting and very dumb, but their fight was a tedious battle in which hay-makers from the sloppy Fury came up against the technique of a very old champion. When a heavyweight fight goes 12 rounds, they either tend to be tedious or action packed and last night we were treated to perhaps the best boxing fight there's ever been in Aotearoa.

This came a few hours after the Warriors were touched up by Canberra in New Plymouth. When you scratch the surface, there's not too many comparisons you can make between the Warriors loss and Joseph Parker's win over Carlos Takam. Dig a little deeper, or wait until after the Warriors came and we saw something special, a mass haka from the Taranaki faithful or more so the Hawera faithful and Issac Luke. Two special events that made me immensely proud as a wee kiwi chap.

A wee kiwi chap from South Auckland, might I add. 

I couldn't help but feel like Joseph Parker's big moment in Aotearoa resembled absolutely nothing about South Auckland, even though it was amazing that a heavyweight contender fight was held in Manukau, in the heart of South Auckland. Parker is a South Aucklander himself, however instead of fighting in front of his people, Parker was fighting in front of many drunk corporates who got their tickets for free. And those who could actually afford the tickets.

Looking around the crowd only led me to sigh. Black and white were the colours that made up the crowd, black and white from the formal attire of suits and ties. I'll keep it all the way real here as well and say that much of the crowd were white folk, white folk who wouldn't pop out to Manukau for any other reason. 

Slightly disappointing in that regard, I guess Parker has taken a fight to Samoa which was cool and Carlos Takam would have probably asked for a nice little cash stash to come down to Aotearoa to fight. Even if this was a contender fight, Takam would have been paid rather well, which is why you had to pay a redonkulous $50 to watch the fight in your lounge.

Once again, I can't help but feel like Parker's people, South Aucklanders or people from the general lower class were exploited. The price we've gotta pay, hence why it's so outlandish for Dean Lonergan to be barking about illegal streams; it's not the dark ages Mr Lonergan.

Honestly, how can you be angry about illegal streaming when you are charging that much money for a reasonably average card?

It's rather complex though, as Parker vs Takam was an awesome fight. About as vastly different as anything that will come Parker's way in the next year or so as this is the end - for the near future at least - of Parker and Duco in Aotearoa. Parker will fight abroad now, he'll fight in front of fans who couldn't give a shit about him, he might get booed when he fights in Europe or America, there certainly won't be a few thousand rich white folk cheering him on.

An opportunity to bring together a community, to really ramp home the cultural diversity of South Auckland was lost last night for the greater good of cash. 

In New Plymouth, we saw yet another example of Maori culture being celebrated and notably by younger folk. This wasn't something new and that's why I felt compelled to write this thingy-ma-jig because off the top of my head I can remember Manaia Cherrington and Tohu Harris being involved in emotional hakas, Cherrington's came after his debut for Wests Tigers while Harris' came in similar circumstances to Luke's as the lad from Hastings get his moment in Napier when Melbourne Storm took a game there last year.

Personally and in very general terms, I kinda feel like Maori culture is suppressed ... limited to a 'Maori language week' and what not. I try my best with #TeReoToday, but with Luke's haka last night and two more recent examples of young men, along with their friends and whanau, putting Maori culture front and centre, Maori culture is perhaps as vibrant and/or as hearty as it's ever been (this is coming from a South Auckland city-slicker, so shout out to Aotearoa because I'm sure in the heartlands, Maori culture is much more prevalent).

The Warriors just aren't a very good footy team, they'll win and lose a few more games this season, deal with it. 

Looking back, their shabby loss to Canberra was worth seeing Luke's haka. 

As a NZ European, everything about that minute filled me with pride about calling Aotearoa home. Sure, it would have been better if the Warriors had won, but then I wouldn't have witnessed the pure emotion, pride and utter awesomeness of that haka. If anyone from another country wants to ask me about Maori culture, I won't show them an All Blacks haka, I won't say 'go to Rotorua' nah, I'll simply show them this video of Luke's haka and sit back. I might fight away tears, I might burst into my own spontaneous haka, who knows, but any time I watch that mutual haka, I'll feel the silver fern slithering through my veins.

That's where the context of Luke's haka needs addressing, not the fact that it came after a Warriors loss or whatever, but with the the hakas of Cherrington and Harris fresh in my mind. No matter what spin mainstream media put on in or what negative vibes come from an ageing pakeha population, here we have three crystal clear examples of young Maori men showcasing the purest form of pride in Maori culture. 

Young Maori men, embraced by their people and as awesome as Parker's win over Takam was, Parker was embraced by folks who snuggle up to Duco or could afford the tickets. This sparked a feeling in me of excitement; I'm excited about pushing Maori culture via the Niche Cache forward, I'm excited that Maori people are still deeply connected to their culture and I'm excited to see Parker get the fuck out of Aotearoa and take on the world.

As I drove home from my antics last night, a car with some funky headlights passed me from the opposite direction with a Samoan flag flying out of the passenger window. This, after I had driven past the venue of Parker's fight and see a limmo, BMW's and other flush vehicles heading for the motorway.

Despite a heavyweight title contender fight being held in my little pocket of the world, I'm more excited for the day that Parker has his title fight outside of Aotearoa because on that day, South Auckland will be covered in pride ... and lots of cars with Samoan flags will be lining the streets.