Nauru boxer Dj Maaki hopes to inspire his nation

SINGAPORE, August 23 (Xinhua) -- Boxer Dj Maaki can emulate his country's prime minister Marcus Stephen and become a national icon on the tiny island of Nauru in the South Pacific Ocean.

Until now premier Stephen has been the major sporting hero among Nauru's 14,000 population after his weightlifting feats brought him seven Commonwealth gold, five silver medals, and a world championship silver between 1990 and 2002.

It is clear that young flyweight (51kg) boxer Maaki plans to join him and inspire the country on Wednesday when he boxes for a gold medal at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

Maaki's coach Larry Notte said his protege's success has galvanised the nation which is not noted for producing many sporting champions.

"It's kind of a passion now in Nauru," he said. "Our major sport used to be Aussie Rules (football), but we've converted to boxing now. Competing for gold is just an enormous step so hopefully people back home will get excited about this."

Maaki has trained hard for the Youth Olympics, and will do battle with promising Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez as he attempts to make his mark in the boxing world and emulate his prime minister, who is also president of the country's Olympic Committee.

Named Dj by his parents because of his love for music and dancing, Maaki has ambitions to continue in boxing and wants to compete in a summer Olympic Games, but his coach said he was focused firmly on winning gold in Singapore.

"It's very competitive and our boxers are still adapting to new techniques and tactics, but hopefully we get the gold," Notte said.


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