As Michael Jackson's 'Bad' wound down, and the MC's fight announcement was winding up, two of the smallest fighters a boxing show is likely to see appeared, trailing their caregivers and trainers. These little boxers turned out to be the prelude to a fight between some of the largest boxers on show, and the introductory match in what was a night of surprises and good-humoured extravagance.
No bigger than ninepins in the ring, and dwarfed by the watchful referee, Nellijah Vili went up against Junior Fauea in an exhibition match that
drew yells of support and laughs of delight from onlookers. It was impossible to tear your eyes from the spectacle, like watching dwarf-wrestling between masked opponents, as the two young fighters
went at each other with surprising skill and exceptional perseverance. Despite ending in a draw, it was Nellijah Vili that seemed the most in command of the ring, and will be one to watch in the years to come.
Whether by design or coincidence, the fight that followed was a beautifully executed display of extreme contrast. With the gloves still warm from the show's smallest boxers' bout, the night's two leviathans Brendon Malesala (130kgs) and Penial Pua (123kgs) took up the challenge, in the first of 10 corporate fights. Playing by professional rules, the uppercuts were jarring, the hooks were resounding, and the combinations ponderous as the mountainous men slowed to a panting crawl in the final round. After the bell, it was Malesala who came out on top by majority decision, proving size does matter in a battle of the gargantuan.
A string of quality corporate bouts then followed, each fighter being played into the ring with their chosen track by the ever-attentive DJ. Six fights in, and the crowd warmed up, the victory of Hamiora Waipouri over Hetekia Turoa (a majority decision) seemed the catalyst for the crowd to take more of an interactive role in the event. On seeing Waipouri's hand raised skyward by the referee, his supporters broke into a heartfelt Haka that impressed the crowd and gave them all the incentive they needed to continue the trend through the next few fights.
Taking the idea of spectator interaction more than a few steps further, Jaxson Vili took the opportunity of his draw with Paea Togatautau to trump all other attempts, by calling his girlfriend into the ring with him, dropping to one knee on the sweaty, bloodied canvas and proposing amidst the cries of excitement. It was a definite highlight, and in keeping with an evening of extravagant gestures, the ring-bound proposal was an unscripted stroke of genius.
Unfortunately, the two professional fights (including the main event) didn't leave any surprises, despite being well-fought matches. Favoured fighters Daniel "The Hammer" McKinnon and Oscar Siale (main event) outboxed their opponents in clearly-won rounds that appeared to saunter towards the inevitable decision in their favour.
With DJ's playing favourites, boxers fighting for their names, ring-side seats to a marriage proposal, and a sword-dancing father and kids for entertainment, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better night out on a Friday.