IBO World Heavyweight Title WBF World Heavyweight Title Australian Heavyweight Champion Gold Medal – Commonwealth Games Heavyweight title (Edinburgh, 1986) Fastest KO in Heavyweight Division
Jimmy Thunder - Birth, February 3, 1966 (Apia); Died: February 13, 2020 (Auckland) Photo - Getty Images / Daily Mail
At the end of the IBO list of Boxing Champions you will see the name Anthony Joshua as the current IBO title holder. Before him is Andy Ruiz JR who held the belt for six days over six months, then it is back to Joshua who took ownership of the belt in April 2017 until he lost it to Ruiz on June 1, 2019.
There are great names on that list and about fourth from the top is the name Jimmy Thunder of New Zealand. He was the fourth fighter to hold the prestigious belt that would adorn future IBO champions. Impressive names like Wladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis who won it twice, Hassim Rahman, Tyson Fury and of course the great Anthony Joshua. Jimmy Thunder was a forerunner in that mix. He is the only Samoan and New Zealander to have won the IBO world title.
That was his second world title, one year earlier Thunder had won the vacant WBF Belt against Melton Bowen of Australia. The fight in Townsville was a short affair with a TKO win to Thunder in round five. He had become a world champion. But Thunder would duly lose the belt four months later to Johnny Nelson who is the current UK Sky Sports Boxing expert commentator.
The link from the present to Jimmy Thunder in 1993 is a well-connected one particularly with Nelson as an expert media man. He tells a great story of his time in Auckland for the fight with Jimmy Thunder, it’s a warm tale of Nelson from Sheffield, UK being welcomed to Auckland by Samoan fighters who sparred with him in preparation for the Thunder fight. Nelson told that story in the lead up to the JoshuaParker fight in Cardiff where the IBO belt, with Thunder as former champion was up for grabs.
Thunder did pave the way for fellow Samoans David Tua and Joseph Parker in the heavyweight division. He was the first Samoan heavyweight world title holder. He was the first Samoan fighter to be embraced by the New Zealand public for his exploits in the ring. Tua, who was also born in Samoa followed suit and Parker who is Kiwi born now continues the Samoan-Kiwi boxing legacy that started with Thunder.
Thunder’s style of raw power and speed was entertaining and mesmerising. He holds the record for the fastest KO in heavyweight history. Thunder's skill-set in the hands of a modern trainer together with a marketing guru like David Higgins or Eddie Hearn would have been a fantastical proposition for the sport and for Thunder. He achieved so much with just pure talent and a fearless heart without the trimmings of modern boxing.
The IBO fight will remain one of Thunder’s biggest achievements. He fought Richard Mason of the USA in Atlantic City. Thunder and Mason were of equal status, 21 wins each and 28 and 27 years of age respectively. Thunder had one more loss than Mason but with a higher KO rate. On the night Mason posed a significant 8cm height advantage (196cm /188) and a longer reach by 3 inches. The fight went the full twelve rounds with all three judges awarding the fight to Thunder 114-113, 116-111 and 115-112.
The other big prize for Jimmy Thunder was his Gold Medal performance at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games (1986). He went up against local hero Douglas Young in the heavyweight final. Thunder was troubled early on by the imposing Scot before he dropped Young with a short and powerful right to the jaw. The Scot was out, Thunder won the fight and boxing gold for New Zealand. The last fight in the ring that night was the superheavyweight title fight. It was Lennox Lewis of Canada who won superheavyweight gold, both men, Thunder and Lewis would become IBO Boxing champions.
One of Thunder’s big performances of his career was the NABF title fight against John Ruiz (1997). The belt had a rich history of greatness with all the greats like Leroy Jones, Ken Norton, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali as champions. The Ruiz fight went the full twelve rounds with Ruiz winning in a split decision (115-112, 116-111, 112-115). Five years later in 2002, David Tua won the NABF belt and held it for a time.
Then followed the one event in Boxing history that will forever be emblazoned with Jimmy Thunder’s memory. The very next punch he threw after the Ruiz fight set his legacy forever. The match-up was against Crawford Grimsley in Flint, USA and took place exactly two months after the Ruiz loss. This was a one-punch fight and it immortalised the name "Thunder" for Jimmy Peau.
The two fighters had just taken in the referee’s instructions, touched gloves, returned to their corners and headed straight back into the middle for the dance. Grimsley began to pose for a long night in the ring. Thunder returned too, to the middle and casually let fly with a powerful right swinging cross. The punch connected with the unprotected Grimsley’s left temple. The fight was over, Grimsley was out cold on the canvass. Time-gone was less than 10 seconds. The record books would show 13 seconds for the KO because the referee attempted to count Grimsley out when it should have been stopped right there and then. Thunder had just fought the shortest fight for both men with Grimsley not throwing a single punch. Grimsley was no slouch, he came into the fight with a 20-win record and a solitary draw, no losses, on the night he met Thunder’s right hand.
Thanks for the memories Ti’a James Senio “Thunder” Peau.
Boxing Record Professional record 1989-2002 49 fights - 35 wins-14 losses-0 (28 wins by KO) Last fight, 6 Dec 2002
Amateur record - 88 wins from 97 bouts. Trained by Gerry Preston