Super 8: Betham wins NZ cruiserweight boxing title to follow in father's footsteps
Former Kiwis and Warriors hardman Monty Betham has fulfilled his long-held dream to follow in his father's footsteps and become a New Zealand boxing champion.
Renowned as one of the hardest men on the field during his days in league, Betham outlasted reigning champion James Langton to claim the national cruiserweight title at the Super 8 Fight Night in Auckland on Tuesday.
The 10-round bout lived up to the pre-fight confidence of both veterans, little separating them as they went toe-to-toe from start to finish.
After a strong start over the first six rounds, 37-year-old Betham steadily faded in the closing stages. But his conditioning and preparation under master trainer Lolo Heimuli came up to the mark as he withstood the ever-advancing 42-year-old Taranaki dairy farmer, who was undefeated in nine fights coming into the bout.
Monty Betham Snr held the New Zealand middle and light heavyweight crowns, and the Commonwealth middleweight title on two occasions. He also fought WBC/WBA champion Allan Minter and WBA super welterweight champion Ayub Kalule, both of whom lost their titles to hall of famers Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, respectively.
The early rounds set the scene for what was to become a war of attrition between two fighters determined to leave the ring with the title belt.
Betham, who had only been 10 rounds once before in his eight-fight professional career, was largely the aggressor and displayed good hand speed and a variety of combinations.
Langton, however, was rarely seriously rattled and appeared happy playing the role of counter-attacker.
It was the later rounds where Langton's experience and durability came to the fore, but it was to be in vain.
Betham had got ahead on the judges scorecards and fought smartly until the final bell to seal a special win.
In what was a highly entertaining night of fighting, the icing on the cake was a four-round slugfest between Warriors forward Bodene Thompson and New South Wales and Cronulla Sharks skipper Paul Gallen.
Gallen won a unanimous decision to take his professional record to 4-0, but few people left in any doubt as to just how tough Thompson is.
The unconventional southpaw certainly caused his more experienced opponent a few issues, bobbing and weaving, constantly coming forward and firing off endless sweeping left hooks.
As Thompson tired, though, Gallen took control and landed heavy shots with more regularity.
But the Warriors enforcer refused to go down and both fighters received a warm ovation from the crowd as the bell rung for the end of the bout.
There was also a first New Zealand title for rising heavyweight Hemi Ahio, who yet again put his raw power on show with a second-round technical knockout win over American Samoa No 1 Alapati A'asa.
The 25-year-old did have to survive a first-round standing eight count after a powerful A'asa flurry, but worked his way back into the ascendancy early in the second and quickly went about securing victory.
Ahio's brutal left hook put A'asa down twice, referee David Craig calling the fight on the second occasion as the American Samoan desperately tried to regain his feet.
The result takes Ahio to 9-0 as a professional, further enhancing his reputation on the world heavyweight radar.
Earlier in the night, Christchurch's Reece Papuni took out the Super 8 four-man light heavyweight tournament after prevailing in a torrid four-round battle with North Shore rival Robbie Berridge.
The pair, who hold the respective New Zealand belts in the division, have been on-course to meet for some time, and the wait proved well worth it.
After a tentative opening round from both fighters, where a slip from Papuni was the only action of note, the bout came to life in the second as the pair began to trade heavy blows and did not let up for three rounds.
The scheduled three rounds was not enough to separate the two fighters, former New Zealand Commonwealth Games representative Papuni eventually prevailing by split decision in a tie-breaking fourth round.
A bruised and battered Papuni expressed his willingness for a full 10-round bout after an extremely entertaining first fight with Berridge. Defeated in his challenge for the IBO world title in June, Berridge said he would be more than happy to have a chance at gaining revenge.
Papuni needed a tie-breaking fourth round to edge past Brad Riddell in the semifinals, with the decorated kickboxer proving far from a pushover in a very close bout.
Ring-rust was also evident with Berridge and he had to shake off a very strong challenge from former Commonwealth Games fighter Sefo Falekaono before also eventually winning in a tie-breaker round.
In the cruiserweight division, crowd-pleasing Nigerian-born kickboxing specialist Israel Adesanya defended his title.
The flamboyant 25-year-old scored a unanimous points-decision over Lance Bryant, the same man he beat in the semifinals of the Christchurch Super 8 event earlier this year, in the final.
A former five-time New Zealand amateur champion, the Pahiatua fighter put in a gallant display, pushing forward throughout and taking some solid blows, but Adesanya's superior reach and speed proved too much.
Coming off a second straight King in the Ring kickboxing triumph on Saturday, Adesanya booked his place in the final with a clinical points decision victory against fellow kickboxing specialist Zane Hopman.
Bryant won with similar dominance against Queensland-based Kiwi Jamie Porter.
In the lone women's charity bout of the night, Shortland Street actress Bree Peters defeated Bachelor contestant Lisa O'Loughlin over three two-minute rounds.