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DJ Maaki - Goes For Gold

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DJ Maaki, most definitely the under-dog in the boxing competition at the "Youth Olympics" which are being held in Singapore, has shown the world that through courage and determination results can still be achieved as he makes it through to the finals and goes for gold.

AIBA report from Singapore - 25 August 2010

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Many people would be hard pushed to pinpoint the tiny state of Nauru on a map but boxer DJ Maaki has put his country firmly on the boxing map by making the flyweight final of the first-ever Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

Maaki's parents christened him with the unusual first name because of his early love for music and dancing and he is one of only four club boxers on the tiny Micronesian island, whose population is a mere 12,000 souls. The 17-year-old who stands at 1.64 metres was awarded a wild-card entry to the Games through the International Olympic Committee's Universality Places - and what better way to demonstrate the universality of the competition.

He is the only wild-card entry among 22 boxers to make the finals of the competition.

Together with another minnow of the boxing world, Grenada, Nauru received a bye at the quarter-final stage when AIBA President C. K. Wu drew the two countries together at the official draw, meaning that Maaki met Grenada's Kandel Dowden in his opening bout, the first semi-final. It was an evenly-matched affair, with both boxers remaining neck-and-neck on scores through all three rounds. Maaki took a slender lead in the second but Dowden clawed back in the third to end on a nail-biting 5-5 finish.

After a tense wait, the accepted scores had Maaki as the winner at 11:10 and he was clearly overwhelmed by the occasion. "I want to thank my family back home for supporting me," he said, before leaving his coach Larry Notte to underscore the importance of the victory for Nauru: "The population is quite small. We have a population of about 12,000 and if you look at the percentage of males it is actually quite low. So making an Olympic final is a huge step for our nation," he said.

Maaki, who has been training for five years, took a silver medal at the Oceania Championships in Canberra three weeks ago - another big step for the small nation.

"Boxing is a relatively new sport for us and we are trying to develop it. The principal sport in our country was Australian Rules football, but people are now starting to convert to boxing," Notte continued. "We wanted to compete here because it's a good competition. We are just trying to develop our boxers, so it's a great opportunity to compete in the Youth Olympic Games."

Maaki will have to overcome tough opposition if he wants to complete the exploit and bring home gold to Nauru. He will face Puerto Rico's Emmanuel Rodriguez in Wednesday's final. Youth World Championship silver medallist Rodriguez hammered Egypt's Hesham Abdelaal 10-1 in the semi-final, clearly setting out his stall for the final encounter.

Article: AIBA

Photo Source: AIBA