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10.32pm: That was a cracking main event that I had a lot closer than two of the judges at ringside. Still, I thought Motu deserved the nod on volume and aggression and she walks away with a world title wrapped around her waist.
It’s a fairytale story for her to come back from being the victim of domestic violence to a world champion boxer. Motu says she wants all the belts and will now go after the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF titles to add to her collection.
That’s all from me tonight. Thanks for following this makeshift blog, I hope you enjoyed the commentary. Stick with Stuff for more reaction from Eventfinda Stadium, including my colleague Duncan Johnstone’s report from ringside.
Mea Motu v Tania Walters
Round 1: The introductions are complete, here we go! Can Motu become the fifth New Zealand-born fighter to capture a world title?
Motu comes out of her corner and backs up Walters, who looks composed and blocks Motu’s combinations. A right hand lands for Walters but Motu responds with a flurry of shots. Motu punishes Walters to the body late in the first round as Walters gets through with a jab.
Motu edged it on activity, but Walters was more accurate. Motu, 10-9.
Round 2: Motu targets the body early in the second frame, doubling up on the jab. Walters looks for a sneaky uppercut on the inside as they wrestle in the middle of the ring.
Walters is warned for a shot behind the head as Motu continues to plough forward. The Canadian is a tricky customer and is waiting for Motu to overcommit. A scrappy round, again Motu probably edged it on volume and being the aggressor. Motu, 10-9.
Round 3: Motu tries to trap Walters in the corner but the Canadian shows nifty footwork to move out of trouble. Motu clobbers her rival with a let hand to the head as they exchange heavy punches in the centre of the ring.
Walters catches Motu with a chopping right but is then wobbled by the New Zealander as they exchange heavy leather before the bell! Another close round, I thought Walters did the cleaner work. Walters, 10-9.
Round 4: Motu is the aggressor and stalks Walters around the ring as the pace noticeably slows down. Motu lands a pair of solid right hands in a scrappy round that Walters wears well. Motu, 10-9.
Round 5: Walters comes out the corner fast and tries to rough Motu up on the inside. But Motu makes her grimace with a left to the body as they slug it out in the middle of the ring! Good action in the fifth as Walters gets through with a sneaky right hand. Motu is breathing the heavier of the two as she rips Walters to head and body.
A clear round for Motu, 10-9. I have her 49-46 up through five rounds.
Round 6: After a pep talk from her corner, Motu comes out like a woman possessed and lights Walters up to head and body! But the Canadian continues to soak it up and fire back, almost connecting with an overhand right.
Walters keeps Motu at bay with a couple of pot shots as she fights off the backfoot. A tough round to score, Motu started well but Walters finished the stronger. Motu, 10-9.
Round 7: Walters senses that Motu is tired and gets to work on the inside, catching the home favourite with a sneaky uppercut and some punishing shots to the body. Motu tries to fire back with a quick combination before the bell but it’s not enough to steal the round on my card. Walters, 10-9.
I have Motu up 68-64 with three rounds to go.
Round 8: Motu comes out with more intent after a motivational talk from Isaac Peach, targeting Walters to the body and using her physical strength to bully Walters around the ring.
Motu’s body work is starting to pay off as Walters struggles to land anything of note in another scrappy round. Motu, 10-9.
Round 9: An aggressive Motu walks onto a right hand from Walters early in the round but doesn’t seem too bothered by it. Walters is trying to use all her amateur experience and she wobbles Motu with a left hook on the chin! A strong finish to the round from Walters, who lands a series of clean blows to the head. Walters, 10-9.
Round 10: It’s all up for grabs in the final round as Walters lands another left hook on the inside! Motu bangs the Canadian to the body but walks onto another uppercut. Walters is breathing deeply as the pace catches up with her. Still, I felt she did the cleaner work in that round. Walters, 10-9.
I have Motu winning a close one 96-94! How will the judges have it?
98-92, 99-91, 96-94 all for Motu! New Zealand has a new world champion!
Motu breaks down in tears as she is embraced by her trainer Isaac Peach. Those scores were too wide for me but no problem with Motu getting the nod in a close fight.
Motu thanks her family, trainer and all her fans in an emotional post-fight interview.
“This wouldn’t be possible without my team, you gave me a whole new power.”
Motu credits boxing and her coaches with saving her life. “I had the worst mental health ever and wanted to give up”, she says, having suffered beatings at the hands of her former partner.
9.45pm: Motu gets a haka from her children as she walks to the ring. An emotional moment for the mother-of -five. She needs to focus now on the job at hand now though, with 10 rounds of two minutes ahead of her.
Motu has a slight height advantage over the stout Walters, and is also the bigger puncher of the two.
9.42pm: Walters walks to the ring first. Known as ‘Tank’ – like American superstar Gervonta Davis – the Canadian has oozed confidence this week and promised to take Motu into deep waters.
Motu then emerges shortly after to the sound of Six60, eliciting big cheers inside the arena. She has a big smile on her face and looks as relaxed as anyone could be ahead of a world title fight!
9.32pm: It’s almost time for the main event – Mea Motu against Tania Walters for the vacant IBO world super bantamweight title!
Motu has seen her two Peach Boxing team-mates win by stoppage earlier on the card, can she follow suit and capture a world title in the process? Not long to find out.
Andrei Mikhailovich was dropped in the first round but rallied to claim a 5th-round TKO over Edisson Saltarin.
Justin Hodges v Liam Messam
Round 1: Both men try to find their range in the opening seconds of the first round. Messam is the early aggressor, narrowly falling short with a right hand. Hodges shows good head movement to avoid another glancing blow upstairs from the New Zealander.
Hodges then catches Messam with a left hand and traps him in the corner, but the former All Black quickly fights his way out of trouble. Messam connects with a meaty-looking let hook and a sharp combination at the end of the round. Messam, 10-9.
Round 2: Hodges is playing possum and swings and misses with a looping left hand that Messam sees coming. A big left hook from Messam rocks the Australian! Messam then targets the body as Hodges ties him up.
But Messam breaks free and lands another eye-catching right hand over the top. Hodges shows a solid chin as he eats another big left hook from the former All Black! Messam, 10-9.
Round 3: Hodges starts the first round on the front foot and lands a thudding body shot that takes the wind out Messam. The Australian connects with a left to the head and just misses with a right hand that whistles past Messam’s head.
Messam finishes the round strongly, backing Hodges up and peppering him to the head and body. Despite that late flurry, I gave that round to Hodges, 10-9.
Round 4: Messam lands a solid left hook at the beginning of the round that gets Hodge’s attention! Hodges fires back but Messam blocks his right hand over the top.
Messam is the busier fighter and gets through with an uppercut followed by a left hand! Hodges looks exhausted and can’t land anything meaningful as they tie each other up before the final bell. They embrace and share a joke after a spirited five-round battle. Messam, 10-9.
I have Messam winning 39-37. How will the judges see it?
They agree, and also give Messam the nod by unanimous decision. Messam pays respect to Hodges and at 39 says he’s too old to compete for the New Zealand heavyweight title.
9.03pm: Hodges walks out to ‘All of the Lights’ by Kanye West and Rihanna, alongside his two young children. His boy has predicted a third-round knockout of Messam. The Kiwi has a slight height and reach advantage over his Australian foe.
9.01pm: It’s 1-1 between rugby and league so far tonight, so it’s all to play for in this co-main event. Messam is fighting out of the blue corner and walks to the ring first, with his trainer Cairo George.
8.58pm: Next up, it’s former All Blacks and Chiefs stalwart Liam Messam against NRL hardman Justin Hodges. Messam is 5-0 in his boxing career but will have his hands full against Hodges, who went the distance with Paul Gallen last year.
Looking forward to this one between these two veteran heavyweights. There will four rounds of 2½ minutes. Unusual.
Jerome Pampellone v Mose Auimatagi Jr
Round 1: Here we go! Auimatagi Jr starts aggressively and targets the body of Pampellone. But ‘The Panther’ looks unperturbed and hits Auimatagi Jr with some heavy shots to the head.
A three punch combo then knocks Auimatagi Jr down hard! He gets up to his feet but it’s waved off by the referee!
A first round knockout win for Pampellone!
A hugely impressive win for Pampellone, who rocked Auimatagi Jr with a left hook and a right hand and he was on unsteady legs when he got up to his feet.
Auimatagi Jr looks gutted but it was the right decision from the referee, he was in a very bad way. Pampellone looks a real force at light heavyweight and arguably has the highest ceiling of all of Isaac Peach’s fighters.
8.41pm: Auimatagi Jr is first to the ring, followed by Pampellone, who struts out to Bob Marley classic ‘Could You Be Loved’. Pampellone has a significant reach advantage over his rival.
8.33pm: Pampellone is the betting favourite but Auimatagi Jr is no slouch and can bang, with 10 knockouts from 19 contests. I still like Pampellone to win on points. He was very impressive when I saw him in Brisbane last November against the world-ranked Faris Chevalier.
8.28pm: Two more fights before the main event between Mea Motu and Tania Walters for the vacant IBO world super bantamweight title.
Up next, it’s Jerome ‘The Panther’ Pampellone against Mose Auimatagi Jr in a IBF Australasian light heavyweight title clash. They are friends outside the ring, but they will put all that aside for this intriguing 10-rounder.
Ex-All Black Sam Tuitupou wastes no time against NRL great Roy Asotasi, blasting him out in 15 seconds.
Sione Faumuina v DJ Forbes
Round 1: Faumuina looks more relaxed and connects with a right hand and an uppercut as Forbes ploughs forward.
Faumuina looks a much heavier puncher as Forbes struggles to close the distance. He does finish the round with a nice combination upstairs though that gets Faumuina’s attention.
I thought the former Warrior edged that one with the heavier shots, Faumuina, 10-9.
Round 2: Faumuina lets his hands go at the start of the round as the pair go toe-to-toe. Forbes lands some solid shots of his own, including a chopping right hand.
An uppercut from Faumuina wobbles Forbes, who narrowly misses with a right hand. Faumuina looks to be feeling the pace, with Forbes the much busier of the two. But Faumuina finishes the round strongly with a sneaky uppercut!
Another close round that was tough to score, I liked Faumuina’s work better. Faumuina, 10-9.
Faumuina does get the nod via unanimous decision!
“When I saw Roy dropped, I was angry man!” Faumuina jokes of seeing his fellow league legend Asotani knocked out. It’s now 1-1 between league and rugby on the night.
“It was a great experience,” says Forbes, who admits Faumuina landed some shots that took the wind out of his sails. “Looking forward to getting back to my normal routine”, he adds, when asked if he will fight again.
Round 3: Forbes and Faumuina exchange head shosts in the middle of the ring in an electric opening to the round. It is Faumuina who does the damage and forces a standing eight-count in the corner with Forbes in trouble.
Both men are exhausted as Faumuina launches himself at Forbes right before the bell! Big round for Faumuina, I have him winning 30-26 but how will the judges have it?
8.05pm: This is another heavyweight fight fought over three two-minute rounds. Forbes is the betting favourite but Faumuina is the bigger of the two. Forbes is wearing a head guard on what is his boxing debut, while Faumuina goes without.
7.59pm: Next up, it’s ex-Warrior Sione Faumuina against sevens legend DJ Forbes. It’s rugby 1-0 league so far tonight, can Faumuina level the ledger?
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: Saltarin’s southpaw stance is giving Mikhailovich plenty of problems. The Kiwi-Russian starts to pop out the jab and keep his opponent at a safe distance.
A big right from Mikhailovich narrowly misses the target. Saltarin fires back and gets through with an uppercut. The pair then trade blows up close, with Mikhailovich landing an uppercut of his own. Good fight through two rounds. Better round for the New Zealander, 10-9, Mikhailovich.
Round 3: Mikhailovich makes Saltarin miss and pay with a left hand early in the round. A thudding left hook to the head has marked the South American up under his right eye.
Saltarin shows good movement on the backfoot to frustrate the marauding Mikhailovich, who is struggling to pin his opponent down. He does get through with a left uppercut and a right hand that Saltarin partially blocks. Mikhailovich lands a sharp combo at the end of the round to steal it on my card, Mikhailovich, 10-9.
Round 4: Mikhailovich is having success with his jab and clobbers Saltarin with a right hand that rocks his head back! The Kiwi-Russian is starting to take over this contest, but Saltarin remains dangerous and connects with a hook on the inside.
Mikhailovich almost walks onto an uppercut as he throws an overhand right. Mikhailovich lands an eye-catching left hook at the end of a round he clearly won. Mikhailovich, 10-9.
Round 5: Some showboating early in the round from Mikhailovich, who is visibly growing in confidence. He unloads with a combination upstairs but Saltarin is unmoved and appears to be taking a breather as he circles the ring.
Mikhailovich rocks his head back with an uppercut and drops Saltarin with a body shot to the liver! He rises to fight on but Mikhailovich pours forward and puts him down again! The referee waves it off!
Mikhailovich wins by 5th-round TKO!
“I’m the f…king Russian!” he screams from the top rope.
A tough fight for Mikhailovich, who moves to 20-0 with 12 KOs. Saltarin can leave with his head held high.
Mikhailovich says he was stunned by the first-round knockdown but overall is pleased with his performance.
“I showed true resilience,” he says, before paying tribute to his trainer Isaac Peach.
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?
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.
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.
KERRY RUSSELL/RUSTY PRODUCTIONS
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’.
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.
AT A GLANCE
Fight for Life card
Mea Motu v Tania Walters (IBO world super bantamweight title)
Justin Hodges v Liam Messam (heavyweight)
Jerome Pampellone v Mose Auimatagi Jr (light heavyweight)
DJ Forbes v Sione Faumuina (heavyweight)
Andrei Mikhailovich v Edisson Saltarin (middleweight)
Sam Tuitupou v Roy Asotasi (heavyweight)