Danny Green's caginess wasn't confined to speculation about his future after he regained the IBO cruiserweight world title - the Australian revealed after outpointing Shane Cameron that he fought the New Zealander with damaged ribs.
A sparring partner ultimately inflicted more damage on the 39-year-old four-time world champion that Cameron was able to achieve during 12 rounds at Melbourne's Hisense Arena last night, although the Kiwi rattled the left side of Green's ribcage in the opening minutes to leave him almost doubled over in pain.
Green, who became the first Australian boxer to win a fourth belt - one he lost last year to shamed steroid abuser Antonio Tarver, was still short of breath in his dressing room and not just through the exertions of boxing/wrestling Cameron for the bulk of a bout he won by unanimous decision.
"I had cortisone, x-rays, my ribs were stuffed, 32 days ago the fight was nearly off and he (Cameron) broke them in round one. It's difficult breathing now, I won't be able to move (today)."
Cameron displayed the obvious signs of damage after the fight - he was cut about the left eye when the pair clashed heads in round two and he sported a shiner by the end of a rugged encounter.
But it was Green who was in pain, on the inside.
"I'd rather have a cut than broken ribs, a cut doesn't affect your breathing," he said, before downplaying his heroics.
"That's what it takes to be a champion, you suck it up and deal with it. If it had happened to Shane he'd have done the same."
Green went to great lengths to disguise his discomfort, and the way he tried to protect his ribs for the remainder of his training regime.
He used a plastic guard to cover the vulnerable area and in a break with convention Green wore a t-shirt when training, rather than work up a sweat topless.
"At the weigh-in I pretended it was our heart rate monitor," he said, giving the explanation he gave fans when they became suspicious.
"It was taped on and worked a treat. It kept us in the fight."
Green's mental strength, canny tactics and tip-top conditioning also played key roles in preventing Cameron become the first New Zealand-born world champion boxer in more than 122 years.
"The motivation was to become the first Australian to win four world titles," said Green, who would not confirm whether he would fight on and defend his latest belt.
"I've had some pretty tough times of late in the ring too. (Antonio) Tarver demolished me, I was beating two-time champion (Krzysztof Wlodarczyk) when I got clipped and got knocked out.
"I'm thankful I could hold together and dig deep."
Meanwhile, Green continued his pre-fight policy of praising Cameron to the hilt despite out-boxing and out-muscling his heavier adversary.
Cameron lost credibility with sections of the New Zealand boxing fraternity when David Tua made short work of their heavyweight bout in 2009, but Green said the 35-year-old should not draw more detractors after his latest performance.
"I hope he hasn't lost an ounce of respect from anyone," he said.
"He shouldn't take this as a negative. I just hope he realises how much respect I have for him, he deserves to become a world champion.
"I have upmost respect for a guy like him, who puts everything on the line. He didn't take a backward step the whole fight."
- © Fairfax NZ News