Live updates: Mea Motu chases world title dream on Fight For Life card

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Andrei Mikhailovich v Edisson Saltarin

Round 1: Wow! Mikhailovich is put down very early in the round by a left hand! He is badly hurt. Saltarin goes after him, looking for a quick finish and lands a solid right hand that rocks his head back. The South American has Mikhailovich in serious trouble, but he rides the storm as they exchange punches up close.

Saltarin starts to work the body and hurts Mikhailovich with an uppercut! A tough first round for the Aucklander. 10-8, Saltarin.

Round 2:

7.30pm: Here comes Mikhailovich, who makes a typically showy entrance to Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’. Two minor regional belts are on the line over 10 three-minute rounds.

7.27pm: Next up it’s Andrei ‘The Russian’ Mikhailovich against Venezuelan Edisson Saltarin. Can Mikhailovich make a statement after almost nine months out of the ring?

Saltarin makes his way to the ring first. He is only 20-years-old and has a 16-0 record with 12 knockouts. A southpaw, Saltarin resides in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

Sam Tuitupou v Roy Asotasi

Round 1: Ding ding! Mike King introduces the fighters and we are under way!

Tuitupou marches forward and knocks Asotasi with the first meaningful punch of the fight! It was left hook folloewe by a right hand on the chin that put him flat on his back. That was a nasty knockout!

Tuitupou wins by knockout!

Impressive performance from Tuitupou, who destroyed Asotasi in about 12 seconds. The pair embrace afterwards and thankfully Asotani is back on his feet and looks OK. Asotasi’s children performed a haka for him after his defeat. A touching moment.

“I think I’ll stick to being a lover than a fighter,” he says.

7.12pm: Asotasi walks to the ring first, and looks confident. His wife, Celeste, was an amateur boxer so no doubt will have been giving him a few tips.

Tuitupou, a father of seven, has about 200 people cheering him on in the crowd! No doubt who is the fan favourite at Eventfinda Stadium.

Asotasi is in the blue corner, wearing black trunks with a gold trim. Blues great Tuitupou is the red corner, in black and red trunks.

7.07pm: But former All Black Tuitupou is a big specimen himself and will have trainer Isaac Peach in his corner. Should be a decent scrap between these two over the next six minutes – unless we get a stoppage, of course.

7pm: Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties with our third-party blog provider, I won’t be able to provide the usual blow-by-blow coverage, but will seek to keep you updated on each fight on the card as they are completed. Apologies for that!

First up, it’s Sam Tuitupou versus Roy Asotasi! This is a heavyweight fight, consisting of three two-minute rounds. Both men are making their debut in the ring so expect some slugging up close from two novices.

Asotasi played 271 games in the NRL for the Bulldogs and Souths and was also capped 24 times by New Zealand.

6.52pm: But tonight is not all about the professional game. There are also some fun fights between former rugby and league stalwarts in the name of charity (the event raises funds and awareness for Mike King’s youth mental health charity, I Am Hope.

First up is a clash between former All Blacks and Blues enforcer Sam Tuitupou and ex-NRL hardman Roy Asotasi. Both men are making their debuts in the ring so expect plenty of nervous energy as they exchange leather over four rounds.

Sevens great DJ Forbes will also glove up for the first time against ex-Warrior Sione Faumuina. The ultra-fit Forbes has been training alongside Pampellone and Mikhailovich under the watchful eye of Isaac Peach, and is favoured to get the better of the Faumuina, despite the latter’s height and size advantages.

And popular former All Black Liam Messam (5-0, 1 KO) takes on one-time Broncos and Roosters star Justin Hodges (5-3, 2 KOs) in a heavyweight clash.

Hodges looms as the biggest test of Messam’s career having gone the distance with Paul Gallen last year and he has been in confident mood in the lead-up to this fight. Will we see a minor upset?

Will Mea Motu still be smiling after her IBO world super bantamweight world title fight in Auckland?

Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

Will Mea Motu still be smiling after her IBO world super bantamweight world title fight in Auckland?

6.47pm: Motu is joined on the card by two of her Peach Boxing Gym team-mates, light heavyweight Jerome Pampellone and middleweight Andrei Mikhailovich, who are both ranked in the top 10 of their respective divisions.

Pampellone (15-0, 8 KOs) is defending his IBF Australasian belt against the teak-tough Mose Auimatagi Jr (15-2-2, 10 KOs), his former sparring partner and a friend outside the ring, in the co-main event.

It’s an intriguing matchup and one in which Pampellone is looking to make a statement by becoming the first man to stop Auimatagi Jr.

Mikhailovich (19-0, 11 KOs), meanwhile, faces a stern test of his own credentials against unbeaten Venezuelan Edisson Saltarin (16-0, 12 KOs). Should the Russian-born Kiwi come through, he will move one step closer to an IBF world title shot.

6.45pm: Good evening, and welcome to our live coverage of the Fight For Life card at Auckland’s Eventfinda Stadium.

It’s the biggest night of boxing in New Zealand this year, featuring the usual mix of professional and celebrity bouts between former rugby and league stars.

And for the first time in the event’s 25-year history, a women’s world title fight tops the bill. Auckland’s own Mea Motu (15-0, 6 KOs) is challenging for the vacant IBO super bantamweight title against Canada’s Tania Walters (4-1, 0 KOs), aiming to become only the fifth New Zealand-born fighter to win a world title

Motu is a warm favourite with the bookmakers to get the job done ($1.20 to $4.50 for Walters), though her opponent is no mug and has an extensive amateur background.

All you need to know about the Fight For Life

It’s that time again, when some of Australasia’s best-loved rugby and league stars pull on the gloves and exchange leather – all in the name of charity.

Now in its 25th year, Fight For Life is the biggest night of boxing in New Zealand, featuring a mix of celebrity and professional bouts to satisfy casual and hardcore fans alike.

Thursday night’s show at Auckland’s Eventfinda Stadium promises more of the same, though in a first for the Dean Lonergan-helmed promotion, a women’s world title fight tops the bill.

Mea Motu (15-0, 6 KOs) will seek to become only the fifth world champion born on these shores when she fights Canada’s Tania Walters (4-1, 0 KOs) for the vacant world IBO super bantamweight crown in the main event.

But before Motu attempts to make history in front of her home crowd, there are five other scraps to savour on the undercard of an event that aims to raise money for Mike King’s youth mental health charity, I Am Hope.

Here’s all you need to know about Fight For Life 2023.

The vacant IBO super bantamweight title is up for grabs for Tania Walters and Mea Motu in Auckland.

Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

The vacant IBO super bantamweight title is up for grabs for Tania Walters and Mea Motu in Auckland.

What’s at stake?

For Motu, the chance to become a world champion, albeit with the IBO, one of the less prestigious of boxing’s alphabet soup of organisations (the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO belts are more widely coveted).

Still, Motu – who is coached by noted trainer Isaac Peach – has earned her title tilt, having broken national records and jumped between weight classes in search of opportunities to hone her craft.

The hard-punching mother-of-five is a warm betting favourite against Walters, a smack-talking Canuck with a strong amateur pedigree but who has done little of note in the pro ranks.

The TAB is paying $1.20 for a Motu win, with Walters priced at $4.50 and a draw $15.

Two of Motu’s Peach Boxing team-mates are also involved in bouts on the undercard which are crucial to their respective futures.

Rising light heavyweight Jerome Pampellone (15-0, 8 KOs) will put his friendship with Mose Auimatagi Jr on hold when he defends his IBF Australasian light heavyweight title against his one-time sparring partner.

Nicknamed ‘The Panther’, the highly-skilled Pampellone is one of the country’s leading prospects and vowed to make a statement to reinforce his burgeoning reputation.

But the 26-year-old stylist will have his hands full against the wily Auimatagi Jr, an experienced foe who can dig and has never been stopped in 19 fights. He also has form for upsetting highly-touted prospects.

Nevertheless, Pampellone – ranked 8th by the IBF – is tipped to do the business and move onto bigger things, with lucrative fights in the UK on the horizon.


Jerome Pampellone will be all business when he meets Mose Auimatagi Jr on the Fight For Life card.

And exciting Kiwi-Russian puncher Andrei Mikhailovich (19-0, 11 KOs) also returns to the ring after a near nine-month absence, taking on unbeaten Venezuelan Edisson Saltarin (16-0, 12 KOs).

The heavy-handed 25-year-old is also world-ranked and looking to work his way into title contention over the next 12 to 18 months.

His South American opponent is something of an unknown quantity, having only boxed on home soil. Yet the 20-year-old from Caracas arrives with the swagger of an undefeated fighter who has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Expect fireworks and an early finish – most likely for ‘The Renegade’.

Former NRL stalwart Justin Hodges locks horns with ex-All Black Liam Messam in a four-rounder.

Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

Former NRL stalwart Justin Hodges locks horns with ex-All Black Liam Messam in a four-rounder.

Which rugby and league stars are on the card?

There are three fights on the card pitting greats from the rival rugby codes against each other. The first sees former All Blacks and Blues enforcer Sam Tuitupou – regarded by many as the hardest hitter in the sport during his heyday – lock horns with NRL stalwart Roy Asotasi.

Both men are making their ring debuts so it’s anyone’s guess how their scheduled four-rounder will play out. Though going off their playing days, a slugfest seems a safe bet.

The same is true of DJ Forbes and Sione Faumuina, with the All Blacks Sevens great and the ex-Warrior gloving up for the first time.

Faumuina is the bigger and stronger man yet Forbes is favoured to use his speed and athleticism to get his hand raised ($1.42 at the TAB to $2.70 for Faumuina).

Finally, Liam Messam (5-0, 1 KO) will continue his professional boxing journey at heavyweight against league hardman Justin Hodges (5-3, 2 KOs).

Messam – who was capped 43 times by the All Blacks – faces the stiffest test of his career in Hodges, an eight-fight veteran who went the distance with Paul Gallen last year.

The one-time Broncos and Roosters star has promised to come out all guns blazing in search of a knockout so Messam will need to be on his game if he wants to remain undefeated.

Where do I tune-in?

The full six-fight card is being shown live on Sky Arena and Sky Sport Now, priced at $39.95. You can also follow live updates on Stuff from 6.45pm.


Fight for Life card

Mea Motu v Tania Walters (IBO world super bantamweight title)

Justin Hodges v Liam Messam (heavyweight)

Andrei Mikhailovich v Edisson Saltarin (middleweight)

DJ Forbes v Sione Faumuina (heavyweight)

Jerome Pampellone v Mose Auimatagi (light heavyweight)

Sam Tuitupou v Roy Asotasi (heavyweight)