The favourite flopped and two Kiwi underdogs caused a major stir.
But after more than two years in the wilderness, Kiwi Kali Meehan returned with vengeance to stun English veteran Michael Sprott and claim the inaugural Super8 tonight.
At 44-years-old, and having last fought over two years ago, Meehan saved his best for the final to rock Sprott with a first round knockout, though some savage blows to the back of the head will be questioned.
In an entertaining evening at Trusts Stadium in West Auckland, former world title contender Meehan collected the $200,000 winner's cheque and an additional $15,000 for the first round knockout, completed seven seconds before the bell.
"This is a good feeling," Meehan said after coming through the easier side of the draw, disposing of gallant Australian Hunter Sam and gutsy Kiwi Brice Ritani-Coe.
Sprott, the 17-year veteran and most impressive fighter before the finale, had to settle for the $100,000 runner's up purse. His toughest test on route to the final came in the form of Irishman Martin Rogan. This all action brawl - billed as the best first-round match-up - did not disappoint. One judge scored the bout a draw, but Sprott did enough to claim a majority decision.
Upset of the night went to Kiwi outsider Antz Nansen, the 7-1 underdog who shocked former world heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman in opening fight for just his fourth pro boxing win.
Rahman, the 2001 heavyweight title holder, looked every bit an over-the-hill former champion who hadn't fought for over 18 months.
Despite talking a massive game in the lead-up, the 41-year-old was laboured, lumbering and lethargic. The main act sat behind his left jab but seemed constantly off balanced and couldn't unload his favoured powerful right. Promoters won't be interested in luring him back.
Predominately a kick-boxer, Nansen was busier throughout the three rounds, landing regular crisp shots, particularly from his right hand to secure a unanimous decision.
Appearance fees continued to tumble out the door earlier as big-hitting American Alonzo Butler departed first up. Despite landing the heavier blows, Butler was on the wrong side of two 29-28 scorecards for Ritani-Coe, though one judge ruled 30-27 in his favour.
On the undercard, Auckland heavyweight Hemi Ahio lived up to his nickname "The Heat". With fast hands, aggressive temperament and relentless pressure, expect to see plenty more of Ahio, who secured unanimous decision. His opponent, William Quarrie, was knocked down in the second round but otherwise held his own over four explosive rounds.
Lower Hutt's Joe Blackbourn was equally impressive in his third round super middleweight TKO against Dimitri Simoukov. The win was Blackbourn's fifth stoppage in a row, maintaining his 5-0 unbeaten record.
Stepping up in class, New Plymouth light heavyweight Sam Rapira also improved his status to 7-0 and handed the durable Taito Rautere his second defeat in 16 fights. Constantly on the front foot, the compact Rapira dished out relentless punishment with a variety of solid combinations. He will be disappointed not to pull off a knockout but it was convincing with all three judges scoring the fight 60-54.
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