Dubai boxing community pays tribute to Samoan fighter who died of Covid-19

Coach Zack Taumafai will be remembered at an upcoming fight night

A life dedicated to coaching youngsters will be remembered at a tribute evening for a Samoan boxing coach who died of Covid-19.

The father of five, who lived in Dubai, tested positive in early October and was admitted to hospital when he developed breathing difficulties.

He died on October 5. He had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Zack Taumafai, 54, dedicated much of his adult life to coaching boxing and other martial arts, his family said.

The support from the boxing community here has been overwhelming, so many people knew him have all offered their love and help. It shows the kind of man he was
Tee Taumafai, daughter

“It was the first time I ever heard my dad ask to be taken to the hospital,” said Tee Taumafai, his daughter.

“Dad was a pretty stubborn guy and didn’t like hospitals at all. A couple of weeks earlier he was admitted for food poisoning but managed to leave before he was supposed to because he didn’t want to be there.

“Of course he went straight to the gym.

“Dad was pretty healthy and when he was admitted to hospital for Covid the doctors were surprised at how fit he was for his age."

On December 11 there will be a tribute event held in Taumafai’s name at JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Business Bay in Dubai.

The event will feature amateur exhibition fights between boxers coached by Taumafai.

A former professional kickboxer, Taumafai first came to Dubai in 2006 during a stopover from Ghana, where he wanted to establish a combat sports gym.

What started off as one-to-one coaching sessions soon developed into a new life for him in the UAE.

Taumafai started in a small gym, coaching and earning Dh1,500 ($408) a month. The gym grew quickly and it was then he decided to set up on his own.

Ms Taumafai, 33, came to Dubai in 2008 and coached in small community halls and other low-key venues alongside her father.

The rest of the family, three sons and another daughter, came over in 2009 and opened the KO Gym in Dubai Marina. The Taumafais continued to run the centre until 2016.

“Ever since my siblings and I were kids, martial arts were a big part of our lives,” Ms Taumafai said.

“We were practically born in the gym, and came from a big family of fighters. It is in our blood.”

Zack Taumafai was born in Samoa and emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager. He worked in several different industries as a young man, including for Nestle and a fish market, before moving his young family to Australia to begin their schooling.

He began setting up private gyms and coaching when he started his new life in Australia.

During his time in the UAE, Taumafai staged 10 semi-professional and professional bouts and more than 40 corporate boxing and combat events.

Representatives from 146 boxing federations from around the world sent condolences to the family.

“Dad loved teaching the kids how to box, it is what gave him most satisfaction,” his daughter said.

“The discipline was always the most important thing with Dad, he made it clear to us he didn’t want us to use our skills outside the gym.

“We would get into fights in school, and we were not allowed to do what we knew. It was tough, and Mum didn’t like us to compete in the ring, but she was still very supportive.

“Dad had a tough exterior, but inside he was very soft and emotional.

“He welcomed anyone to our family and built this community around him. He made sure they were part of a big family.

“The support from the boxing community here has been overwhelming, so many people knew him and loved him and they have all offered their love and help. It shows the kind of man he was.”

Updated: November 22nd 2021, 5:12 AM