A night showcasing grit, skill and celebs

Last updated 11:31 18/12/2012

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The Fight for Life is a night when people better known in other sporting fields are put into the boxing ring.

It puts people's reputations on the line and gets people talking about just who can and will handle themselves better in the boxing ring.

Rene Ranger or Greg Bird? Paul Gallen or Hika Elliott? Is Eric Murray mad jumping in the ring with Manu Vatuvei?

These questions created some debate in the lead-up to the Auckland event and, to be fair, the fights delivered on the expectations as these gutsy sportspeople stepped out of their comfort zones and into the ring.

There's no secret they were well compensated for taking on the challenge but it's hard to put an argument forward that they didn't deserve that money.

However, despite all this, as a spectator it fast became obvious this was more than a boxing event.

In fact, at times, the boxing seemed somewhat of a sideshow.

For the "celebrities" and leading business folk in Auckland, it is obviously the place to be seen and it was networking central as they mingled throughout the night, often with little regard to the boxing.

I'd suggest this is one of a few key reasons that this event is gaining in popularity every year and why promotions company Duco Events has developed an impressive money-making venture within its stable of other events.

The boxing gets the people there, but when they are there, the night is more than just what goes on in the ring.

Being in this environment was eye-opening, in some regards, for a bloke from little old Invercargill.

It was "spot the celebrity" on Saturday night around the corporate tables at Trusts Stadium in Waitakere as the who's who of New Zealand sport, entertainment and politics converged on the venue.

It mirrors what goes on in the NBA, where the Hollywood stars sit court-side and help create the impression that it's the place to be seen.

It is that celebrity touch to the Fight for Life - which has been well fuelled by these calculated organisers at Duco Events - that seems to help make this a winner for all involved.

The ringside tables of 10 people go for $13,794.25 and reduce to $6894.25 for those tables in the back rows - it takes some pulling power to get people to cough up this sort of money, but it happens at the Fight for Life and looks likely to continue.

The other major development this year for organisers David Higgins and Dean Lonergan was tapping into the Australian pay-per-view market.

The signing of the likes of Willie Mason, Paul Gallen and Greg Bird to fight meant this had quickly grown from a high-profile New Zealand event to one that has now captured some interest in Australia.

This unique event only looks set to get bigger.

From a boxing point of view, the night was a great promotion for the sport.

Initially, I had my doubts about mixing celebrity boxing with those who box professionally by putting them on the same card.

I had a feeling it was a slight on those who were trying to make a career out of the sport.

Sometimes I do, however, reluctantly confess to being wrong, and this is one of those times.

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Having someone like promising professional heavyweight Joseph Parker as the main event on the Fight for Life showcased the sport at a high level that otherwise wouldn't have happened.

If it wasn't for the celebrity element, many wouldn't have had the opportunity to watch Parker at this stage of his career.

After watching the first-time boxers go about their business and then seeing someone like Parker strut his stuff also highlighted just what it takes to be a professional boxer and how good those boxers are.

The hand speed and general skill shown by Parker was a massive step up from earlier fights in the night.

- The Southland Times


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