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Millers in every corner of the ring

Sandwiched between Farmlands and Goodyear Tyres along Chapel Street is the spartan elegance of the Young Citizens Club [YCC].

From the street, it looks like a fairly modest building, but it is Masterton’s very own Tardis.

Behind the utilitarian double doors is a surprisingly vast, airy space.

Taking up the centre part of the large main room is the boxing ring, elevated like you see on the telly.

Down one side, the wall is lined with punch bags.

The floor is slightly cushioned and on the day Midweek popped in to visit, primary school-aged children were being put through their paces on it, leaping, jumping and doing sit-ups with enthusiasm and varying degrees of coordination.

It’s a scene that has been played out countless times over the clubroom’s 66 years when it first opened in 1957 to provide a space for boxing, judo, fitness and community gatherings.

Photographs and articles from the 1960s uncovered by Mark Pacey at the Wairarapa Archive show that weekend fight nights were extremely popular with locals.

News articles from the time evoke a buoyant era for boxing, with crowds of over 200 men, women and children regularly attending amateur boxing tournaments.

Drama in the ring could sometimes be eclipsed by events outside it.

On September 18, 1961, “the only hold-up in a full evening’s programme was occasioned by the medical officer’s call to proceed to a maternity case”, the Wairarapa Times-Age reported.

“An enthusiastic audience subsequently greeted the announcement of the birth of a girl.”

Where is she now, one wonders.

Today, former professional boxer and the club’s head coach, Daniel Miller, runs YCC with his wife, Lucy.

Having trained, boxed and coached at YCC since he was eight, it’s not too much of a stretch to say Daniel has “grown up in the gym”, Lucy said.

The couple took over the running of YCC six years ago from Neil Cadwallader, who, along with his wife, Janice, had been part of its fabric and the wider boxing scene since 1978.

In 2018, the Cadwalladers were recognised in the New Zealander of the Year Awards for their work with at-risk youngsters, predominantly through boxing.

Daniel and Lucy aren’t the first Millers to be associated with YCC – the surname pops up frequently in YCC’s history.

Between 1960-1975, Len Miller [Daniel’s grandfather’s cousin], was the club’s head coach.

Corey Miller [Daniel’s brother] is currently the club’s second coach and his daughter, Brooke Miller, is a rising star in women’s boxing.

Sporty from a very young age, Brooke took an interest in boxing at the age of six and had her first competitive fight when she was 10 years old.

Five years later, with her impressive height and long reach, she is still in the game and currently preparing for the North Island Golden Gloves tournament in Tauranga.

There’s a lot Brooke likes about boxing – and YCC.

“It’s fun,” she said. “I enjoy being strong and spending time with dad,” who is also her coach.

With so few women at a competitive level in boxing at her age and weight, “it’s hard to find a fight”, but she’s pleased to see more young women attracted to the sport and coming through the ranks.

She trains hard, particularly leading up to a competitive fight.

In a typical week, she’ll run five or six times, do three sessions of boxing training, pop down to the gym at least once, and do regular pad work at home with her dad in the evening.

In whatever time she has left, Brooke coaches at YCC, which she enjoys “when [the kids] listen. The older ones – 10- and 11-year-olds – they are the worst listeners.”

Brooke’s other passion alongside boxing is competitive mountain biking, particularly downhill and enduro, a form of the sport which involves getting to the top of a hill or mountain and racing to the bottom time-trial style.

She recently placed first in the U16s of the North Island School MTB downhill champs and second in the Mount Vic Enduro n Chill competition in Wellington earlier this year.

Brooke has her eye on the Olympic Games as a boxer, but for now, her focus is the Golden Gloves.

“It’ll be close this year, but I’m definitely in with a chance.”

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