PART ONE: THE KO KING
Three fights, three knock-outs, no real punches
Even if you hated the sport of boxing, you might think you’d have heard of the world champion living in South Auckland.
He’s the KO King. The very first Indian heavyweight champion of the world.
Training a remarkable seven hours every day, he spars 15 rounds at a time. He’s given half his winnings to charity. In 21 heavyweight fights, he’s won all but one - and every one of those by brutal knockout.
His exploits have taken him from Fiji, to Auckland, to Thailand, to Mexico. He was honoured by the California Legislative Assembly. He’s publicly called out everyone from Shane Cameron to Vladimir Klitschko, though none took up the challenge. He thinks they’re all running scared.
And yet Rohit Singh lives in a modest home in Papatoetoe, South Auckland, and has received no media attention nor fame. Because while Singh calls himself the ‘K.O. King’, in boxing circles, they call him ‘No-hit Singh’.
A Stuff investigation suggests that every single one of his fights has been faked or fixed. He could be the champion who never threw or absorbed a genuine punch.
What nobody can work out about Rohit Singh is why. Is he simply a conman trying to bluff his way to one big payday against boxing royalty? Or is he genuinely delusional, the Walter Mitty of the squared circle?
Our story starts at the Auckland Boxing Association, the beating heart of the city’s boxing scene, where aspiring new professional fighters often have their first bout, fighting for as little as $100 a round.
Tucked down a sidestreet in Eden Terrace, the gym can - at a stretch - fit 400 spectators. Criminals, cops and corporates mix in one of the most entertaining atmospheres in grassroots sport.
Hopeful new fighters must first get past long-time fixture Johnny Lloyd. Lloyd was the gym’s matchmaker, finding the right fights at the right price.
He remembers the day Rohit Singh, a recent arrival from Fiji, first turned up with a sheaf of press clippings, a photocopy of his fight record back home, and a very unusual offer.
Singh told Lloyd if he could get him on a show, he would fight for free. And he would provide and pay for his own opponent, saving Lloyd about $800.
“So I said ‘you will supply the opponent and fight for nothing?’ Right, you’re on,” says Lloyd. “He looked the part though, didn’t he?”
Lloyd referred Singh to promoter Bruce Glozier.
Glozier says: “He said he had 24 fights and showed me some sort of documentation. It looked a bit suspect, because the bit of paper was a photocopy and might have been changed a bit. But he made out he was going to be some big superstar - and as a promoter, you’re always looking for the next big thing.”
Glozier doesn’t remember seeing the bout - he was too busy running the promotion. Fortunately, a shaky video of it remains on YouTube, a sketchy record of the November 18, 2011 ‘fight’.
Rohit’s opponent Anmol Tiger never removes his white T-shirt (a breach of professional boxing rules which should have rendered the fight invalid) and looks deeply uncomfortable as he and Singh slowly circle the ring.
Singh lands one meaningful blow, then throws a gentle hook to the body which sends Tiger to the floor, covering his face. It’s all over early in round one.
Lloyd was a ringside judge for the fight.
“He knocked the bloke out in the first round. It was good for a laugh. Everyone thought it was a ‘stew’, a fixed fight,” Lloyd says.
“I thought ‘well, it’s entertainment for the crowd, and he pays his own way’: the Australians would often put a comedy fight on. It’s a fairly deadly business, so to have a bit of light relief was good. Although there were a few who weren’t happy I put him on.”
Steve Miles was one of the other two judges.
“He was a big well-built Indian boy, he looked the goods,” Miles says.
With the judges sitting on different sides of the ring, he was at the wrong angle to see the knockout blow.
“I thought it must have been a good punch. I couldn’t see it, and I thought what a bloody good punch that was. And one of the other judges who had seen it, said it didn’t even hit him, it didn’t even land.”
There’s no trace of the curiously-named Anmol Tiger anywhere. Nobody in New Zealand boxing knew who he was. And his professional boxing career would last only one more fight.
But Rohit Singh would have two more fights and two more first round knockout wins within the next two months.
Upstairs in a downtown Auckland office building, the Corporate Box was a strange and short-lived venue, kitted out as some sort of luxury stag weekend destination with pool tables, video games and a boxing ring. This was the location for Rohit Singh’s next two fights.
The first, against Patrick Wise, is on YouTube with a backing track of someone crooning ‘Singh is king, Singh is king’. But that doesn’t drown out the laughter of the audience when Wise, a balding man who appears of Indian ethnicity, drops to the canvas in the first round from a glancing left hook. Referee Lance Revill reaches two on the count then, looking unimpressed, waves the fight off. (Watch the footage as part of the audiobook at the top of this page.) According to the boxing database Boxrec, debutant Wise never had another fight.
Six weeks later, Singh returned to the Corporate Box on a card organised by the ambitious young promoter Craig Thomson. Six years later, Thomson remains furious about that night.
Johnny Lloyd had mentioned Singh to him, and Singh repeated his standard offer of a free fight and handpicked opponent. “I am disappointed I didn’t do enough background checks on him,” says Thomson now. “I didn’t know much about him, but he had all his paper clippings and his talk about being the first Fijian champion. I skimmed over them, and thought ‘let’s give this guy a crack’.”
The fight? “It was a f…... joke, no other way to put it,” says Chauncy Welliver, the American fighter who headlined the card.
“An absolute farce,” Thomson concurs. “I realised I had been had. It lasted about 20 seconds. It was a mockery.
“You could tell straight away by the mannerisms. You know when someone’s not been in the ring before ... his opponent just looked awkward. And once the fight started: well, I’ve been hit harder by the missus’ handbag. When he [the opponent] went down, everyone was booing.
“I confronted him in the changing room. I was pissed off … you could tell it was a stitch up. I said to him it was rubbish, you’re not welcome back. I was pretty angry. I gave him a serve, and he didn’t say much back. He never fought on my shows again.”
Singh’s opponent was, Thomson says, “someone who wanted an opportunity”.
Video of the fight shows ring announcer Gary McCrystal announcing the other combatant as a 3-0, 106kg fighter named ‘Alex Benjamino’ (there’s no boxer listed on BoxRec of that name). When the fight was officially submitted, it listed Singh’s opponent (and still does) as Richard Beniamina.
Beniamina could not be found, but he was an actual fighter, who had trained as a kickboxer at the well-regarded Lee Gar gym in Auckland, which has produced a series of champions. Beniamina had one professional boxing fight before this night, and one after. People in boxing circles believe he emigrated to Australia.
What seems fairly certain is that it was not actually Richard Beniamina who fought Rohit Singh that night. “I don’t know who that guy was, but it wasn’t Richard,” says Thomson.
“I’m pretty sure he used Richard’s name because he wanted to use someone who has fought before, so ‘we will use him cos he’s 0-1 and nobody will know’.”
Craig Thomson describes Beniamina as a slightly-built Polynesian middleweight, and the man in the video is clearly over 100kg, as McCrystal’s introduction says, and, again, appears to be Indian.
Terry Tuteru, who runs a south Auckland gym and trained Beniamina for his professional boxing fights is bemused. He confirms Beniamina never had a fight in the heavyweight division and weighed in the “late 70s [kilograms]” when he trained him. “They’re dropping names,” says Tuteru.
How could Singh’s opponent have taken another fighter’s identity? It’s difficult to be certain, as McCrystal - the New Zealand National Boxing Federation’s (NZNBF) former commissioner who oversaw the fight - passed away in 2012, but back then it was easier to obtain professional boxing paperwork.
The now-president of the NZNBF, David Craig, says these days boxers must deliver serology (blood) testing results before fights, and undergo a pre-fight medical and, at the police’s requirement, a criminal record screening. But these are relatively recent innovations and Thomson confirms the old regime was much more relaxed. “Now you have to provide proof of ID … back then all you did was provide a name, not even a date of birth.”
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