Cameron, Minto size each other up for all-action clash
Ahead of Fight for Life, American heavyweight Brian Minto says all the pressure is on Shane Cameron, yet the Mountain Warrior simply shrugs his sizable shoulders and welcomes it with a smile.
Cameron makes his return to the heavyweight division on Saturday when he takes on "The Beast" Minto for the WBO Oriental Heavyweight Title in the Woodstock Fight for Life's main event.
The pair were in Nelson yesterday to promote the fight in somewhat rare circumstances. The fighters were seen making small talk while waiting to collect luggage, something Cameron conceded would "never happen" with an opponent like Monte Barrett.
"It's a first for me being on tour with an opponent, but he is actually quite a nice bloke, a real professional," said Cameron. "But come fight night you put all that aside."
Many pundits are picking the bout to be an all-action fight - for as long as it lasts - with both fighters using a similar style. But, on a night where Kiwi pride is on the line in the rugby versus league battles featuring All Blacks, Kangaroos and former Black Caps, Minto a 38-year old American, said he was happy to play "the spoiler'.
"I'm very surprised they picked a guy like me in their comeback fight," said Minto.
"I have no pressure on me. This isn't my country, these aren't my people, so I am ready to be the spoiler and take people's dreams and aspirations, because I am shooting for the same goals."
The experienced Minto has a record of 38-7 and will pose a threat for Cameron, especially when fighting on the inside. Minto fought just three weeks ago in the England-based Prizefighter tournament.
Kevin Barry, Minto's guest trainer for this fight, added more fuel to the fire saying if Minto could get the job done "the money only goes up" and the American will be lined up for another two fights in New Zealand.
Barry said fight promoters Duco Event have outlined that if Minto defeated Cameron he would fight on the Joseph Parker undercard in Nelson in March and he would fight Joseph Parker in June or July.
Barry said that incentive would ensure "we are going to see the very best that Brian Minto has to offer" plus a war in the ring.
"Both guys are battle-tested, both guys are hardened fighters," said Barry. "Styles make fights and this look like a real barn burner."
Although Minto is plotting to step over Cameron and take the Kiwi's opportunities, he said it was just the fight game.
"We are professionals and there is no animosity between us, but when the bell rings, that goes out the window," said Minto. "I think we are going to test each other's wills and when push comes to shove we will be right in the middle of the ring banging."
Despite not fighting since his world title IBO cruiserweight loss to three-time world champion Danny Green in November last year, Cameron remains quietly confident.
The calm demeanour is almost unsettling. The slight smirk when discussing the time away from the ring makes it seem like a ploy to lull his opponent into a false confidence. Although that is typically not the way Cameron operates.
"Nope, no mind games from me," he said when sitting alongside his similarly frank and uncomplicated trainer Henry Schuster. "I don't play the mind games, I just know I have the firepower to do the job."
Cameron said he started sparring early to help get "boxing fit" again. He will fight at his natural weight of around 100kg, where he feels near "mobile and strong". It is around the same weight Cameron was when he fought Monte Barrett in July 2012. A tree-trunk right hand, with both feet rooted to the floor, felled Barret in the fourth round that night, and Cameron reckons there could be something similar in store on Saturday.
"I think there is going to be some fireworks," said Cameron. "Whether it is in the first round or halfway through the fight. It could be the first 10 seconds."
The Minto-Cameron matchup will unfold after an undercard full of stars collide for the charity event supporting KidsCan.
All Blacks' hard-man Liam Messam will take on his Australian rugby league counterpart Paul Gallen while fellow Kangeroo Sam Thaiday will take on immovable Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna, who tips the scales at 140kg.
Also on the undercard is embattled New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns, though if the former Black Caps all-rounder has it his way, his opponent and friend Simon Doull will be the one on the defensive.