Advertisement

Nyika's full-circle moment on path to African discovery

On the eve of a career-defining fight, David Nyika has revealed his family's death-defying dash out of Uganda and the step he's taken more than 50 years later to reconnect with his African roots.

New Zealand's Gatton-based Olympic medallist (8-0) will fight Germany's Michael Seitz (12-0) on the undercard to Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk's historic undisputed heavyweight duel in Saudi Arabia on Saturday (Sunday morning AEST).

The cruiserweight has enjoyed a permanent move to the rural Queensland town under trainer Noel Thornberry since claiming bronze and carrying the flag at Tokyo's 2021 Games.

A friend of Fury's, the 28-year-old knows a statement victory would propel him into the world rankings of two bodies and likely lead to more big-money fights thanks to the booming Arab boxing scene.

But that's not his only focus. Nyika is hopeful of reconnecting with a family history that was abruptly shifted when his grandparents and their two sons fled Idi Amin's deadly regime in 1973.

"It's a story of self-discovery because I've never felt like I belonged anywhere," Nyika, whose mother is British, told AAP from Riyadh.

"I look just as Arabic as I do Brazilian or Puerto Rican. And I've always been lumped in with the Maori community, but never had that culture myself."

Nyika's grandfather Tom was a dentistry student on scholarship when he arrived in New Zealand from Uganda and met his wife Jenny, who had two Welsh parents.

He returned home and became one of Uganda's leading dentists as Amin took control and briefly offered the nation hope.

That quickly turned though. The brutal dictator's army is estimated to have killed as many as 500,000 people in a nine-year reign, before Amin was, ironically, exiled to Saudi Arabia where Nyika has this week received the royal treatment.

"A family of significant intellect with two half-caste kids ... when things started to get a bit spicy, they realised getting out of the country became a top priority," Nyika said.

With no avenue to citizenship in New Zealand, Jenny's father called on a favour from his mate, New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk.

Kirk arranged the papers and the family was set to flee via Kenya.

Even the capture and death of a family friend, caught on the border on a similar mission just days earlier, didn't put them off.

"It was a huge risk ... I don't think about it often, but I wouldn't be here for starters," he said of that fork in the road.

"I could see things going very differently for Dad, and he'd never have met my mum.

"And it adds to the significance of what I want to do - reconnect with a lost connection back in Uganda."

davey
David Nyika will pledge $10 for every punch landed in Riyadh to protect people from malaria. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

He plans to start by pledging $10 for every punch he lands on Seitz to fight malaria.

The mosquito-borne infectious disease killed 580,000 Africans, mostly children, and infected 13 million Ugandans in 2022.

If Nyika lands 60 punches in what's set to be a 10-round tussle he can protect 2,400 people from the disease for up to four years.

"I've always tried to be a good person, I'm just curious (about my culture) and want to be able to give back where I can," he said.

"Fighting against malaria is a good way to plant that seed."

As for the other fight, Nyika's intent is clear.

"He's looking sharp ... if he was a bomb I'll be careful at first. But once defused I'll take him right out of there," he said.

"I need to make a statement here, so many doors are going to open.

"This one's especially important to me to make a splash."