Kiwi heavyweight Brice Ritani-Coe has had a painful loss before he even gets into the ring for tomorrow night's Super 8 tournament in Auckland.
The Las Vegas-based fighter has been ordered to shave off his beloved beard ahead of his opening round clash with giant American Alonzo Butler.
Steve Miles, the president of the New Zealand National Boxing Federation which is overseeing the eight-man elimination contest, confirmed Ritani-Coe would have to remove his beard for "safety reasons".
"It sucks. I want to keep it. I've been growing it all year ... it's part of me," Ritani-Coe said.
He believed there had been complaints from rival camps in the competition, "so I have to get rid of it ... it sucks."
Beards are prohibited in international amateur boxing though exceptions are made for religious reasons.
They are allowed in professional boxing and there are two recent Kiwi connections - South African Frans Botha sported a virtual full beard for his clash with Sonny Bill Williams in Brisbane last August and a goatee for his fight with Joseph parker in Auckland a few months later.
"I'll make sure in my contract next time that I won't shave my beard," Ritani-Coe said.
He said this was too big an opportunity for him to get caught up in a hairy side issue.
A solid amateur, Ritani-Coe has been based in Canada and the United States for the last six years.
He's based in Vegas and has earned a good career as a sparring partner - he's been working with Parker recently - and has had six professional fights for three wins, two losses and a draw.
This is his first fight as a professional in New Zealand.
"It's a great opportunity and I plan to make the most of it. My preparation has been good. I feel good ... I'm the best I've ever been."
The 28-year-old Ritani-Coe felt his sparring with Parker - "we've done over 30 rounds" - gave him an advantage in a field of aging boxers.
"It was perfect for me because Joseph is a lot faster than these guys I'm going with."
He's up against the heaviest fighter in the contest in 34-year-old American Alonzo Butler who tipped the scales at 134.4kg at today's weigh-in. Ritaini-Coe weighed 118.1.
The format is an elimination style fight-night. There are four first round fights. The winners go to the semifinals with the two finalist found from there. The fights are over three three-minute rounds.
The theory is the smartest fighter will ultimately prove to be the best fighter on the night.
The winner takes away $200,000 and the runner-up $10,000.
There are $10,000 knockout bonuses with $2500 for a TKO. The fastest first round knockout earns a $5000 bonus and $2500 will go to both boxers in "the fight of the night".
SUPER 8 WEIGH-IN
Hasim Rahman (US) 115kg v Antz Nanzen (NZ) 107.7kg
Alonzo Butler (US) 134.4kg v Brice Ritani-Coe (NZ) 118.1kg
Hunter Sam (Aus) 104.5kg v Kali Meehan (Aus-NZ) 110.4kg
Michael Sprott (Eng) 112.3kg v Martin Rogan (Ire) 106.3kg
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