Robbie Berridge can now lay claim to being New Zealand's best light heavyweight boxer after stopping Daniel MacKinnon in the 10th round of a brutal and bloody brawl in Hamilton tonight.
After a long-standing war of words this was a grudge match, one the Kiwi boxing fraternity had been begging to see.
With the WBO Oriental title now in his possession, Berridge silenced any doubters by improving his record to 22-1, with 18 KOs. Berridge also justified Duco Event's six-year investment.
"This was the toughest fight I've had so far," Berridge said. "Well done to Dan. I felt like it was mine from the get-go."
From the referee's instructions and stare down you could feel the intensity.
Though limited shots connected, Berridge was the initial aggressor. His busy approach saw him search for openings to land his main weapon, the fast, lethal left hook. In the second round he succeeded, hitting MacKinnon flush in the eye with a solid blow that required attention from his corner at the bell.
Too often MacKinnon dropped his right hand early, leaving himself open for Berridge's favoured power shot.
Both fighters took strong blows in fifth round, standing toe-to-toe in what resembled a street brawl. That doesn't do them justice, though. This was much more than a slugfest. Skilful footwork, effective jabs and evasive movement was on show in a classy contest.
Despite his right eye now swelling, MacKinnon warmed into his work to claim two successive rounds. In the sixth, Berridge was pinned in the corner and MacKinnon unleashed for the first time. That opened up a cut on Berridge's left cheek. Blood streamed profusely from the wound for the remainder of the bout.
As fatigue set in, both fighters suffered knockdowns - MacKinnon in the seventh and ninth Berridge in the eighth. But it was the latter who capitalised.
Former All Black Va'aiga Tuigamala - "Inga the winger" - now has two undefeated professional boxing sons.
Bubba Tuigamala kick started his professional career -and last night's boxing extravaganza in Hamilton - with a bang, handing Wellingtonian Clint Foai his fourth straight loss with a powerful second round blow.
Heavyweight Tuigamala, the nephew of David Tua, looked in control from the outset. A knockout seemed inevitable, and Tuigamala obliged with a damaging right hook early in the second of four rounds.
Bubba equalled his brother Jordan, a super middleweight, who also has a 1-0 record thanks to a unanimous decision over Jody Allen in June.
On the biggest stage of his fleeting career, Nikolas "The Greek" Charalampous confirmed his potential, but didn't have it all his own way against the durable Rico Nee.
With swift hand speed, a sharp ability to change direction and a lethal upper cut the 20-year-old Aucklander had Nee on the backfoot throughout.
His more experienced opponent proved hard to knockdown, though, withstanding several onslaughts and powerful punches.
This was a quality fight with plenty of heavy punches exchanged. Both fighters were out on the feet at the end of six rounds.
Charalampous rocked Nee in the second, fifth, and sixth rounds with a flurry of furious combinations.
Nee's legs went to jelly and he leant on Charalampous to keep himself off the canvas several times. But you had to admire his heart to carry on.
There was never any doubt about the result. Charalampous improved his record to 6-0 with a unanimous decision, his first result not by KO.
New Plymouth's Sam Rapira kept the entertainment coming, maintaining his unbeaten record with an easy first-round stoppage of Fijian Isaia Maku.
With the vocal backing of the crowd, Rapira dominated from the opening bell. A swift left hook to the body dropped Maku early. Once he got to his feet Rapira finished him off before the referee intervened and stopped the fight. That took his record to 4-0, with all wins coming by knockout.
Former Australian water skier Lauryn Eagle improved her record with a split decision win over Tauranga-based Nicki Bigwood after six rounds.
Bigwood continued to come forward and was predominately the aggressor, but Eagle took her record to 8-3 after six rounds. Some telling blows with her right hook early proved decisive, though the local crowd got most animated when the pair wrestled each other to the canvas.
- Fairfax Media