On this day 03 February in 1966, Samoan professional boxer James Peau or Jimmy Thunder as he was known in the ring, was born.
He was famous for knocking out American Crawford Grimsley with his first punch in 1997. The fight, lasting 1.5 seconds before the count, is a record for the world’s fastest knockout.
Peau, who won gold for New Zealand in the superheavyweight division in Edinburgh in 1986, died peacefully in his sleep on 13 February 2020 after he underwent brain surgery.
Born in Samoa as Ti’a James Senio Peau, he grew up in Auckland.
He represented New Zealand at the 1986 Commonwealth games in Edinburgh, Scotland. He defeated Dougie Young in his hometown by unanimous decision. It was one of the nine gold medals won for New Zealand in that year.
After his Commonwealth Games success as an amateur, which also included the Australian heavyweight title, Peau turned professional in 1988 and fought under the name Jimmy Thunder.
Peau won two world heavyweight belts during his career – the WBF in 1993 and IBO in 1994.
His last bout was in 2002.
His mother is from the village of Fasitoouta, and his father is from the village of Falelatai. Thunder was born third out of six siblings.
He went to school at Onehunga High School in Auckland and was taken to the boxing gym in Mangere Bridge by a friend who introduced him to Gerry Preston who took on the young Samoan.
As an amateur he had 89 fights, finishing his amateur career with 83-6 record.
He is the only Samoan and New Zealander to have won the IBO world title. 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 known as the trailblazer and forerunner in that mix.
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.