Robert Berridge attempts to wriggle out of fight
New Zealand's highest ranked boxer, Robert Berridge, is attempting to withdraw from his next fight in controversial circumstances.
The Kiwi light-heavyweight champion was scheduled to headline Va'aiga Tuigamala's "Triple Thriller" card against Adrian Taihia on Thursday night in Auckland.
Just three days out from the event, however, it was understood Berridge and his promoters, Duco Events, were attempting to pull the pin on his involvement.
Tuigamala, who could not be reached for comment, was informed of this at a hastily-arranged meeting yesterday.
Berridge, ranked No 10 by the WBO, was understood to have injured his hand last Wednesday, but waited until Monday to see a doctor.
The 29-year-old, who held a 23-1 record, has sustained "knuckle bruising" from sparring.
Berridge's absence would be a massive blow for former All Black Tuigamala, who was attempting to work his way out of financial strife by fighting alongside his two sons, Bubba and Jordan, at the ASB Showgrounds.
The event was being televised on Sky pay-per-view, but with the main act in severe doubt, buyer numbers were likely to take a significant hit.
The Taihia camp were fuming that Berridge waited five days before seeing a doctor, believing it was an unprofessional approach.
Taihia was also insisting his contract should be honoured. The anticipated grudge match was to be fought for the WBO Oriental and WBA PABA titles over 12 rounds.
Berridge was due to fight again on the undercard of Joseph Parker's clash with Brian Minto on 5 July, with Duco already exploring the prospect of at least three other opponents.
Duco promoter David Higgins, Berridge and his manager, Vasco Kovacevic, have not returned calls seeking comment.
Berridge's withdrawal was expected to be confirmed at a press conference today, despite desperate negotiations from Tuigamala.