Bigger, fitter, more focused: Samoan boxer targets Tokyo dream

Samoan boxer Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali is remaining focused as he awaits his opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Sydney-based fighter rose to prominence by winning a silver medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and gold at last year's Pacific Games in Samoa.

He was among up to 10 Samoan boxers intending to travel to the Olympic qualifying tournament last month in Wuhan, China, which was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The event will now be held in Jordan from 3-11 March and Plodzicki-Faoagali, 20, said it has forced him to reassess his preparation.

"I was already ready but now there's more build-up to it and I've got to still stay fit because I already peaked but we have to re-peak now and refocus on the task ahead," he said.

"Just trying to keep busy and train and spa all the best guys in Australia. I've been getting good sparring but my main focus now is the 2020 Olympics.

"We have our trials in Jordan which were supposed to be in China but was postponed to the virus in China."

Because of delay, only three Samoan boxers will attend the Asian and Oceania qualifiers, include a Samoan-based athlete who is currently training alongside the other two in Sydney.

With minimal support from the Samoan Olympic Committee and no sponsors at hand, Plodzicki-Faoagali said they were largely self-funded but had also been helped by supporters, including Marist Samoa, donating funds as well as basics like food and transport.

"We don't have any sponsors or anything but people have been helping us with a Go Fund Me [page] on Facebook and our gyms have been helping with donations and stuff to help us," he said.

"We've been pretty blessed with all that [help] so it's been hard."

The Olympic dream is a full-time gig for Plodzicki-Faoagali and he said it would not be possible without the support of his family and friends, especially his dad who is helping to train them on the road to Tokyo.

"It's pretty hard but we get through it with all these people helping us with our journeys," he said. "They know how much we want this so they support us, especially our families."

Plodzicki-Faoagali's previously competed in the light-heavyweight (81kg) division but said he made the decision to move up to the heavyweight after battling with the health effects of trying to keep his weight down.

"I was thinking about it all year long after Pacific Games and finally made the move up...

"After my last tournament it was pretty hard mentally on myself because I was really starving myself and then I just made the decision I don't want to be like this. I want to be 100 percent fit and focused because I had to focus a lot on my diet instead of training all the time."

Plodzicki-Faoagali said the likes of Paea Wolfgramm and David Tua made a big impact on him growing up, with Samoa-born Tua always urging the youngster to chase his Olympic dream.

"I was over there (at his gym in South Auckland) last year for some work and same as in Samoa - he gave me some good talks. It's good to have knowledge from a champion like him," he said.

"The number one thing he would always tell me is just to be confident in yourself in whatever you do so that's always stuck to me...even if it's boxing or day-to-day-life."