'I knew bugger all': Shane Cameron's new life outside the boxing ring

The story of former boxing champions who fall on hard times when the final bell sounds is as old as the pugilistic art itself.

Mike Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003 as his career reached the twilight years; Joe Louis – world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949 – died in poverty; Leon Spinks, who shocked the boxing world by beating Muhammed Ali in 1978, ended up broke. And there are plenty of others.

Shane Cameron was determined that he wasn't going to be one of them.

Now aged 43, the man known as "The Mountain Warrior" has successfully swapped the boxing ring for a business desk.

The former New Zealand heavyweight champion, Pan Pacific title-holder and 2002 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist finally hung up the gloves in 2014 with a 29-win 5-loss record, and acknowledges he should have quit earlier.

"I stayed fighting longer than I should have. Boxing was very good to me but I had lost my drive ... I had to force myself to keep going.

"It's not just boxers who find it hard to adjust when their career is over, there are athletes in all sports who struggle.

"You have to know when to fold and walk away. I had already thought about a life after boxing and I have had a gym in Auckland for more than 10 years."

A whole new world

Four years ago he started the online business Counter Punch, selling boxing and exercise equipment and apparel. He also runs coaching courses and is contracted to the New Zealand Institute of Health and Fitness.

But the man raised in the small farming and forestry community of Tiniroto, near Gisborne, says it was not easy stepping on to the business ladder.

"I had a website for Counter Punch but, to be fair, it was from the Stone Age. I knew bugger all ... e-commerce was a whole new world for me."

Last year Cameron embarked on a three-month e-commerce and digital marketing programme called Ka Hao i te Ao run by social enterprise Te Whare Hukahuka. On his mother's side he is Rongomaiwahine, an iwi centred in the Māhia Peninsula, and so was given a scholarship.

"The scholarship was a big plus – it cost me nothing to get three months of learning."

The programme utilises indigenous e-commerce experts from Niue, Canada, the US and Australia tuning in to share their knowledge, and for Cameron it switched on a light.

"It really woke me up and gave me an incentive to get stuck in. It was an awesome course and I am so grateful for the opportunity.

"Before then I had given the business no love, but the course showed me the possibilities if you are willing to learn and work at it. I have always had a work ethic and been prepared to make sacrifices."

'Business is good'

Cameron's new-found skills have had a dramatic effect. Counter Punch now offers a range of over 100 items and his slick digital offering has seen turnover triple in the past 12 months.

Currently, he is working on a boxing fitness app, with a launch planned before the end of the year.

It has been a challenge and a steep learning curve, but for Cameron "business is good".

Though the man who once sparred with Mike Tyson admits: "It's easier being a boxer than a businessman."

Mark Dawson is a freelance journalist based in Whanganui.


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