Two dwarfs are set to go head-to-head in a televised boxing bout, but at least one of the contestants has reservations that the fight will be seen in the same league as "dwarf tossing".
Aucklanders Matthew Wood and Colin Lane will square off on the undercard of the Joseph Parker-Francois Botha fight in Auckland on June 13.
Wood, who is 1.37m tall, said he was stepping out of his comfort zone and his biggest reservation was "what society will think of two dwarfs fighting".
"They might relate it to dwarf-tossing," he told the Sunday Star-Times .
"I want to prove that it doesn't matter what size and shape you are. This event shows people you can be inclusive.
"Everyone is equal. That's what I'm trying to promote."
The fixture drew the ire of boxing aficionado Sir Bob Jones who said: "No depths left unplunged."
But the Little People of New Zealand organisation is not concerned, saying the pair are "old enough to make their own decisions".
"We're not here to baby them about what's okay," said spokeswoman Loren Corbett.
"It's not much different from one of your friends going in the boxing ring. As an organisation we are there to support all little people and promote the fact little people live everyday lives."
Promoter Dean Lonergan said the bout was about legitimising dwarf boxing.
"I don't see how anyone could see it as exploitation. We are paying these guys. The only reason people will blow this out of proportion is because they have their own prejudices against dwarfs. New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote; we've just legalised gay marriages and here we are legitimising dwarf boxing."
Lonergan has also been behind other controversial celebrity fights, last year pitting TV reality star Rosanna Arkle against Jaime Ridge, who won the three-round bout. Other fights have included cricketer Jesse Ryder taking on broadcaster Mark Watson.
Wood has been training with former league star Monty Betham, who is finding the situation challenging.
"Matthew is the smallest person I've trained. Obviously being a dwarf you have to work around that. It has been a challenge logistically. He's got normal gloves. Sometimes you have to get a little bit lower when you're doing pads. You've got to be creative in what tools you use to train him. It's definitely different."
Wood has previous sporting success. He finished third in the 2002 North Harbour body building competition, bench pressing 145kg when he weighed just 59kg.
He is grateful for the opportunity to fight Lane over three, two-minute rounds and is motivated to change the views of sceptics.
"I'm especially nervous about how people will perceive it. Being a dwarf you are usually an outsider to this sort of event. It's great that they've thought of us little people and brought us into this major sporting event."
Wood said Lane had sent him a derogatory private message on Facebook in an attempt to stir up tensions.
"Basically it's good versus bad. I'm the good one," Wood said.
"He has small man's syndrome."
- Sunday Star Times
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