How trainer Isaac Peach quit booze for boxing

thesociala
thesociala
9 Min Read

Nobody expects Isaac Peach to bring down the most hyped heavyweight in Australian boxing.

But, hey, no one ever really thought he would quit the boozing either.

“Although now, yeah, five years sober,” Peach says.

Which is no small thing.

“Oh, if you were drinking with me back in the day, bro, we’re gone seven days,” admits the knockabout Auckland plumber all tattoos, wry smile and reputation for wearing thongs — sorry, jandals — everywhere but road runs.

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A fella who, you should also know, is now being hailed the best fight trainer anywhere in New Zealand.

Working from a small family property in the west Auckland scrub – a place even promoter Dean Lonergan calls “five acres of boxing excellence” – this retired national champ, and self-confessed “club fighter”, is quietly growing his nation’s best boxing talent.

And for proof, know that Peach Boxing, right now, has no less than four fighters on the cusp of world title shots – cruiserweight Dave Light, middleweight Andrei Mikhailovich, light heavyweight Jerome Pampellone and women’s star Mea Motu.

A quartet who, together, have amassed a staggering 61 wins … and no losses.

Then on Friday night in Brisbane, coach Peach will also walk tough Kiwi puncher Kiki Leutele to the ring – decked out, as always, in his signature jandals – for a showdown with one of Australia’s most exciting new stars.

According to the bookies, Leutele is anywhere up to a $10 outsider for his headliner against the undefeated Justis Huni.

Or put another way, friendless.

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Which again, is nothing new for Peach Boxing – a gym born that same day its coach, a former New Zealand super middleweight champ, swore off the booze.

“Because I was an alcoholic,” explains the now 40-year-old who mixes his coaching with a profitable plumbing business and life as both a loving husband and father to four children under eight.

Pushed on his battles with the booze, Peach continues: “I’ve got no shame now in talking about it.

“I was an alcoholic — but a functioning one.

“I still worked my 40 hours a week, still trained hard … I would drink all night then be up at 5am to run roads with all the other guys at the gym.

“And I’d win.

“But my personality, it was the same on the piss. All or nothing, let’s f**k everything up.

“So initially when fighting, I’d take long layoffs from the drink. But then over time those layoffs got smaller and smaller.”

So at age 35, and three years after calling time on his boxing career, Peach quit drinking too.

“Because if things didn’t change,” he concedes, “I wasn’t going to have my family … I wasn’t going to have anything.”

Problem was of course, he still needed something to quench that all or nothing personality.

“So training became my addiction,” he says.

Starting out by holding pads for his brother on the back deck at home, Peach was then joined by Pampellone – a neighbour who “heard us punching and decided to come take a look”.

Which itself started a yarn which, on Friday night, sees the undefeated light heavyweight looking to continue his own rise and rise on the Huni card.

“And over time our little group of misfits has grown,” Peach grins of a stable boasting eight boxers, some of whom, like Leutele, have also spent more than a little time living in the Peach family home.

Importantly, his facility has grown too.

“At first, we only had a little old shelter where the rain would come in,” he continues.

“But then eventually, we built a small garage.

“Then later, a bigger garage. And now finally it’s a proper establishment.

“Nothing has been planned, though.

“We’re just a small group of people who all have their own reasons for being here.”

Unsurprisingly given their background, Peach Boxing products also boast a style that encourages fighting inside the ‘punch zone’ – or being willing to take a hit because, well, that’s also from where you can best give one.

Similarly, sparring sessions inside the team’s gymnasium are famous for getting a little, err, wild.

“The sparring, yeah, it’s borderline,” Peach admits.

“Not every day.

“But you’re talking about putting two top guys on a knife’s edge.

“And the way our guys can go hard, finish up, then sit down afterwards for a cup of coffee – that’s cool.”

Sounds a little old school?

“My way is old school,” Peach insists.

“And it’s catchy.

“Because all the political correctness stuff these days, it’s ruining sport. And my way of doing things is very un PC.

Justis Huni and Kiki Leutele face off. Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“Sure, it’s still OK to have issues.

“You’re allowed to cry.

“But we also know boxing is a tough game, so you need to be hard as f…”.

Which brings us to Leutele.

That softly-spoken Napier product who, in preparation for Huni, has left his partner and three children, including a newborn, to both live and train with Peach.

Elsewhere, the delaying of their Trans Tasman showdown for several months — thanks to Huni securing a bout with fellow Aussie Joe Goodall in the interim — has also seen Leutele admit to struggling financially without his boxing income.

“So it’s been hard,” concedes the fighter who has also previously battled both depression and anxiety.

Pushed on his more recent financial stresses, the fighter continues: “Just worrying about my kids.

“Worrying about if they’re going to be OK.

“But while it’s been tough, you find a way. And now I’m here, I’m excited – ready to do whatever it takes.”

So as for how Peach plans on causing what would be one of the greatest upsets in Aussie boxing history?

“Kiki just needs to take his moment,” the coach says. “And until it comes, trust that it will.

“Don’t stress.

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“Be OK with getting hit, with failing, with missing.

“Be OK with things going not quite right … and then make sure to be there when your moment does come.”

At which point we ask Peach, given the success he is now having as a trainer, and the fact he was 12-1 himself as a professional, why he decided to quit the sport?

“I wasn’t good enough,” he says simply.

“I was tough.

“Went OK. But I wasn’t good enough to go international.

“I was a club fighter.

“That, and an alcoholic.

“But now, I’m filling my life with coaching.

“That’s my addiction

“I don’t drink, smoke, nothing like that.

“I just do boxing and family.”

Then, after a short pause he laughs: “That, and a little bit of plumbing.”

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