Ties slung over shoulders, or wrapped strap-like around wrists, the Friday night corporate crowd had settled in for the evening by the time the lights went down and the ropes went up. They were perched, slouched and straddling their chairs at the tables that ringed the ABA Stadium's permanent canvas, when the first of the corporate fighters made an entrance - a prelude to the main event that many had come for.
One of New Zealand's top fighters, 'Diamond' Daniella Smith was there to bring some sportswoman-like pain to Gabriella Zapata (Argentina), in the form of eight rough rounds of professional welterweight boxing. And she wasn't about to disappoint the wave of cheering faces that lapped around the ring.
But first came the corporate fighters. Sometimes it is a boss, sometimes an employee, other times it's a rival for that promotion who steps into the ring, and is either wished well or ill for their, often, debut fight. Break a leg they might say - and sometimes mean it. Whomever it is, it's the end of the week for many, and they have mostly come to bask in the rowdy atmosphere; breathe in the scent of blood, sweat and leather; and let the combination of it all work them out of a week of office torpor.
Fighting to a high standard, these corporate dabblers in the 'Sweet Science' had been well prepared for the realities of the ring, and knew how to roll - for the most part. After a combination-rich bout between crowd favourite Jimmy Anthony, and evenly-matched Shane Smith, there was something of an upset. Manuel 'Babyface Assassin' Rosales stepped into it with Alex Rawiri, and was promptly knocked out within 21 seconds of the bell to signal round one. A first for many in the stands, it's extremely rare to witness a knockout in a corporate bout, let alone a follow-up parting shot while the opponent is stretched out on the canvas. It was a questionable move that didn't agree with the crowd, who booed the overzealous fighter out of the stadium after he won the KO decision.
Two more, less zealous corporate fighters went their rounds with skilled tenacity before the first professional fight of the evening reached the ropes. No sooner had the fighters - Robert 'The Butcher' Berridge (Robust Fitness Gym) and Moses Ioelu (Vili's Gym) - touched gloves under the burning lights, then the fight was over: a 19 second, round one, TKO decision for The Butcher. Gloves were nudged, then Berridge leapt on the woefully unprepared Ioelu and the referee, fearing a blood bath, called an end to the fight. Despite Ioelu's protests, the decision was made and a confused calm was all that was left in the wake of the fight.
Shattering the strange quiet, the announcement of Diamond's international bout brought the collected mass to their feet with an almost martial snap. Zapata came in first, to friendly, welcoming applause, then Smith made her way through the suddenly raucous crowd. Most of these well-catered onlookers stayed at attention throughout all eight rounds, their diligence and support being repaid in kind with a unanimous decision going to Smith after throwing down for the full rounds. Zapata was powerful, but swung too wildly, letting Smith unpick her defences with quick, accurate combinations to body and head.
Rubbing the fight grease from their week-weary faces, the spectators stayed just long enough to congratulate 'Diamond' Daniella Smith, her opponent, and themselves for the foresight in attending a smoothly-run and highly entertaining evening of boxing.