The story of former boxing champions who go through hard times when the final bell rings is as old as the art of pugilism itself.
Mike Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003, when his career was reaching twilight; 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 going bankrupt. And there are plenty of others.
Shane Cameron was determined not to be one of them.
Now 43, the man known as “The Mountain Warrior” successfully traded the boxing ring for a business office.
The former New Zealand heavyweight champion, Pan-Pacific title holder and 2002 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist finally hung up the gloves in 2014 with a record 29 wins and 5 losses, and admits he should have given up sooner.
“I stayed fighting longer than I should have. Boxing was very good for me but I had lost my dynamism… I had to force myself to continue.
“It’s not just boxers who struggle to adjust at the end of their careers, there are athletes in all sports who struggle.
“You have to know when to go to bed and when to go. I had already thought about a life after boxing and have had a gym in Auckland for over 10 years.”
A whole new world
Four years ago, he started the online business Counter Punch, selling boxing and exercise equipment and clothing. He also runs training classes and is hired by the New Zealand Institute of Health and Fitness.
But the man raised in the small farming and forestry community of Tiniroto, near Gisborne, says climbing the corporate ladder has not been easy.
“I had a website for Counter Punch but, to be honest, it was from the Stone Age. I knew everyone … e-commerce was a whole new world to me.”
Last year, Cameron embarked on a three-month e-commerce and digital marketing program called Ka Hao i te Ao run by social enterprise Te Whare Hukahuka. On his mother’s side, he is Rongomaiwahine, an iwi centered in the Māhia peninsula, and therefore received a scholarship.
“The scholarship was a big plus – it cost me nothing to have three months of apprenticeship.”
The program uses indigenous e-commerce experts from Niue, Canada, the United States and Australia to share their knowledge, and for Cameron, it turned on a light.
“It really woke me up and made me stay stuck. It was a great class and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.
“Before, I had not given any love to the company, but the course showed me the possibilities if you are willing to learn and work in it. I have always had a work ethic and I was ready to make sacrifices.”
‘Business is good’
Cameron’s new skills had a dramatic effect. Counter Punch now has a line of over 100 items, and its nifty digital offering has seen sales triple in the past 12 months.
Currently he is working on a boxing fitness app, with a launch slated for before the end of the year.
It’s been a challenge and a steep learning curve, but for Cameron “the business is good”.
Although the man who once fought with Mike Tyson admits, “It’s easier to be a boxer than a businessman.”
Mark Dawson is a freelance journalist based in Whanganui.