Former Warriors hardman Monty Betham has downplayed an alcohol-fuelled scuffle with fearsome Fight for Life opponent Shane Cameron.
Inside sources claim to have witnessed Betham knocking Cameron to the ground with a roundhouse karate kick to the head after a disagreement and a wrestling rumble breaking out in Auckland suburb Parnell three years ago.
"There was something that came up but it was just Shane and I having a bit of a wrestle," Betham confirmed to Sunday Star-Times. "Boys being boys, you know. It was at our boxing gym in Parnell. We were having a few quiet drinks."
The pair have since mended their friendship and sparred together, but will put that on hold in three weeks when they square off in what promises to be the biggest all-Kiwi boxing match-up since David Tua rocked Cameron in New Zealand's highest rating pay-per-view event.
"It's going to get people talking, isn't it?" Cameron told the Star-Times.
Next month's intriguing cruiserweight fight at Waitakere Trusts Stadium is likely to be six rounds. It marks Cameron's return to the ring after he broke his hand and claimed the Commonwealth title with a killer-punch 12th round stoppage of Australian Dominic Vea in July.
After just two losses in 29 professional fights, Cameron will be expected to deal to Betham. The last of Betham's undefeated five pro fights was four years ago.
"Obviously they weren't of Shane Cameron's calibre," he said.
But defeat would almost certainly spell the end of Cameron's career. It is a risky fight to accept with personal trainer Betham highly motivated and in prime condition.
Cameron, who now weighs 94kg, has been inactive for 3 1/2 months because of an operation on his busted right hand. The 34-year-old turned down turned a chance to defend his Commonwealth title on the undercard to Danny Green in Perth next week because his "hand wasn't ready for it". He now has just three weeks to get fit. Training starts today with a 17km run for Cure Kids.
"It [a loss] would not be a good look at all. I better start training. I wasn't planning on fighting again this year. I've got everything to lose here," Cameron said. "I know that. But I'm very confident of coming away with the victory. A loss would be a huge blow at this time in my career. Losing doesn't come into my mind. I look at it as a world title fight for me."
The contrasting brawlers will each tip the scales at around 90.7kg, but Cameron's superior reach, height and experience should allow him to dominate the fight, his third at official cruiserweight level.
"I've done a few rounds with Monty when I was a heavyweight. He holds his own. He goes all right. He's got good, fast hands, but my experience will be too much for him. It's a big step for Monty. He knows what he's getting himself into.
"Six rounds isn't a lot for me. I want to win, and win well. I always like to look good in the ring."
Renowned for being the enforcer on the league field – Warriors' fans will long remember the flurry of short rights he unleashed on Bronco Casey McGuire – Betham admits to questioning his sanity after agreeing to put his head on the block to raise money for prostate cancer. "That thought has crossed my mind many times of late," he said. "This is definitely outside the comfort zone. My heart has been beating and I definitely know I'm alive.
"It's so comical it's almost like a Rocky Balboa story, only this time it's not the nice scripted ending. We probably know what it's going to turn out like. I'm going in there to face one of the biggest challenges of my life and get something out of it.
"I know what I'm facing, a momentous task. If I go down, I'll go down swinging. I'm going to push him to the limit and if I box really well and create some problems, you never know what could happen."
Promoter David Higgins was chuffed to pull off the high-profile match-up which is sure to captivate huge New Zealand audiences.
"There's a lot at stake. Cameron is risking his career. If he's beaten by Betham it's over. Betham is risking his health. If Cameron connects good, Betham will go down. It's a magic match-up."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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