Charity event a knockout
When Dave Bartley and Steve Boutcher dreamed up the idea of a charity boxing event in 2003, they pencilled in the Invercargill Workingmen's Club as a venue.
Bartley had a daughter with cerebral palsy and it spurred him to find a way to raise some funds for charity.
The boxing enthusiasts also wanted to use the event as a way to help promote their sport.
They initially set about organising an event that they thought would attract a few hundred people and at a smaller venue, like the Invercargill Workingmen's Club.
The interest, however, boomed above all expectations and the first Fight for Kidz was held in 2003 at Invercargill's largest indoor sporting arena, Stadium Southland.
Eleven years on, Bartley and Boutcher put on their sixth Fight for Kidz on Saturday night and it was done in front of a record crowd at ILT Stadium Southland.
Almost 1500 people were seated at tables on the stadium floor while about 1300 people watched from the grandstands, making it the biggest Fight for Kidz yet.
It was also the biggest event the stadium has held since it was reopened this year.
"Never did we think it would get this big. We were thinking the Workingmen's Club for the first one but it just got bigger and bigger," Bartley said.
For Bartley and Boutcher there was sense of relief on Saturday night when it was all over, following the lenghty buildup, which included training the boxers themselves.
"I'm pretty relieved," Bartley said yesterday while reflecting on the night. "I didn't get to bed until 5[am] and Steve hasn't been to bed yet. There wouldn't have been many people that did not have a good time."
The stars of the show, as usual, were the boxers themselves.
Most had little to no boxing experience and stepped into the ring in front of the big crowd that was eager to see punches fly.
Bartley said it was something the boxers could remember fondly for ever, no matter the result in their bouts.
"They absolutely loved it. They are going to be friends for life as well. That's the thing; there is a fantastic bond with them and now they are friends for life."
Brandon Spencer started off the night in spectacular fashion with a knockout win over Jeff Dakers.
Spencer, who was 11 years younger than his opponent, landed a good straight shot to finish the fight in the second round.
To the delight of the female members in the crowd later in the night, Spencer, who is also a bodybuilder, was oiled up and lured into joining the ring girls holding the up the cards in between rounds.
The night was finished with a less-than-spectacular fight between former Southland rugby player Davin Heaps and visiting politician Brendon Horan.
Horan struggled and Heaps had little trouble racking up a unanimous decision victory.
The quote of the night was delivered by referee Denny Enright during that main event when Horan didn't look interested in continuing at one stage.
To spur Horan on, the Papamoa-based Enright said to the Tauranga-based MP: "You're in Southland; you've got to toughen up".
In between those first and last bouts, Nicky Herbert was the star.
Herbert beat Rex McCormack with a third-round TKO and was named the best overall boxer of the night by the judges, referees and ringside officials.
Meanwhile, Bartley said it would take some time to work out just how much money was raised for this year's charity - Ruru School.
The event has raised more than $300,000 for charity over the first five Fight for Kidz events.
People delved into their pockets for the auction on Saturday night, with a signed Roger Waters guitar going for $7000.
A signed Eric Clapton guitar, signed Michael Schumacher racing shoes, signed George Foreman and Muhammad Ali gloves, signed Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield shorts and gloves, all sold for just over $5000 each.
For the record, Boutcher's Blue team had the upper hand, with eight wins to three on the night.
The Southland Times