Knockout artist Berridge keeps grinding away

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2014
Robbie Berridge
Getty Images
KNOCKDOWN: Robbie Berridge celebrates his 10th round TKO victory over Australian Kerry Foley in Sydney.

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Lately, Robbie Berridge has been told to smile more.

His advisers want him to be friendlier, more approachable.

Smiles don't come naturally, though. They don't suit Berridge.

The advice is a sign of his growing profile in New Zealand - a push to sell an ideal image. But no number of smiles will change his instinctive nature. He lives to fight.

Berridge plays the part of "The Butcher" with precision. He's fast forging a reputation for beating opponents into submission. He is a knockout artist - a destructive, powerful boxer with a brash exterior often perceived as arrogant.

Underneath it all, though, you'll find a passionate family man who fights inside and out of the ring, just to keep his head afloat.

Berridge hails from Raetihi, a small town near Mt Ruapehu, before moving to Whanganui, where he still has close ties. But he largely grew up on Auckland's North Shore.

These days he rents a large, humble brick house in Glenfield that features framed pictures of his boxing triumphs on the walls.

It's easy to see pro boxers on television and envision a cushy lifestyle or liken them to Hollywood portrayals of those infamous rags to riches tales.

But for now at least, even the prospect of owning a house in Auckland's inflated property market is a pipe dream for Berridge.

Like many others, the 29-year-old lives week to week, supporting his two-year-old daughter, Avalee, and two German shepherd dogs, one of whom is named after Rocky Marciano. They both, ironically, live on a raw meat diet, provided by the Butcher.

Boxing purses aren't enough to sustain a living. Regular personal trainer sessions top up his income, but even then, he's lucky to put away $50 a week.

"You do the sport because you love it. It's also nice getting paid but you can't just live off boxing," he said. "It's a hard road. I might be in the media but there's no glitz or glamour. I've got to slave away and do all the hard stuff, too. There's not really any days off."

Berridge has always been good with his hands.

Before turning pro nine years ago he crafted rimu tables, a line of work that made him appreciate this brutal lifestyle he now leads.

Family is prominently displayed through ink. Most recently, the biblical phrase "Where O death is your victory, Where O death is your sting" was engraved on his right bicep, as a tribute to his late grandfather, Alan Richards, who passed away on December 27, aged 91.

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Reading the phrase at Richards' funeral was an emotional occasion. It was also a fitting choice, given the sting his fists deliver to gain victory.

Richards, a well known commentator, called the 1982 Football World Cup and the famous underarm bowl incident between Australia's Trevor Chappell and New Zealand's Brian McKechnie in 1981.

Berridge's most prominent memory of his grandfather, though, is playing football in his backyard and sneaking chocolate bars from the pantry.

"I heard him commentate for the first time when they had a tribute to him on the radio after he died," he said.

Other tattoos include a swallow, representing his daughter, and another biblical phrase for his grandmother.

Following last month's TKO of Australian Kerry Foley, Berridge improved his record to 23-1. Expect to hear, and see, plenty more about his quest for a world title shot.

Just don't ever think he's got it easy.

"I'll keep grinding away until I crack it."

- Sunday News

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