Fight night … Paul Gallen tags Hika Elliot. Photo: Getty Images
PAUL GALLEN showed why he is regarded as the toughest man in the NRL as he thumped All Blacks hooker Hika Elliot in one of the feature bouts at the Fight For Life boxing extravaganza in Auckland on Saturday night.
Elliot talked a good fight before the clash, declaring his intentions of seeking a knockout. He entered the ring with no lack of showmanship but it was Gallen who walked out of it with a deserved unanimous points victory.
A karate black belt who has dabbled in kickboxing, Elliot could find few avenues through Gallen's defence in an exciting three-round battle that featured plenty of toe-to-toe fighting. Elliot tried to up the tempo in the second and third rounds but Gallen boxed clever and landed the better punches.
Fight for Life
Eric Murray and Manu Vatuvei battle in the ring. Photo: Peter Meecham
"That was one of the toughest things I've ever done," Gallen said.
Replied Elliot: "I'm disappointed, we're competitive people and we hate to lose. He applied the pressure and good luck to him."
Golden Olympic rower Eric Murray received a standing ovation heading into the ring. No one wanted to take on Manu Vatuvei but Murray stood tall. He didn't have the punching power to trouble a dominant Vatuvei but he did well to last the three rounds, losing a unanimous points decision.
"Look at my muscles, I don't have anything on that guy," Murray joked. "But it's been fantastic learning the different skills of boxing."
Former All Black Rene Ranger was his own worst enemy in his majority points loss to Gold Coast Titans forward Greg Bird.
In the second of three rounds, the former All Black copped a decent punch from Bird and referee Lance Revill stepped in to check on proceedings. Bird dropped his guard and Ranger struck, catching him flush and leaving the NSW forward to regret his choice not to wear headgear.
The unsuspecting shot caused a massive uproar from Bird's corner with three-time Australian champion Jeff Fenech kicking up a stink during a three-minute delay as Bird tried to shake off the powerful shot. Ranger was deducted two points and it probably cost him the fight.
While Bird went on to claim the majority points decision in a brutally entertaining fight, Ranger landed most of the lusty blows. His overhand right was lethal.
Bird produced one flurry late in the second round that brought blood gushing from Ranger's nose, but otherwise his street-fighting style had him on the back foot. At the conclusion of a fierce battle, the crowd rose for a standing ovation.
Willie Mason and former All Blacks forward Troy Flavell fought out a draw in the battle of the big boys.
Mason and Flavell provided plenty of entertainment with a mix of big punches and occasional wrestling, and couldn't be separated by the judges.
Former Kiwi league international Jarrod McCracken constantly attempted defensive tactics on the ropes in his loss to retired All Blacks five-eighth Carlos Spencer.
On the professional card, Daniella Smith, New Zealand's standout woman fighter, set herself up for another world title shot with a unanimous points victory over Australian Lauryn Eagle.
Smith, a 40-year-old former International Boxing Federation welterweight champion, stalked Eagle all night. Eagle has already claimed the World Boxing Federation super-featherweight belt in a nine-fight career, but fell victim to Smith's aggressive approach over six rounds.
Smith's handlers are confident this victory will reignite her career at the very top level. There was, however, enough evidence to suggest Eagle has a genuine future in the sport.
Smith had Eagle back-pedalling from the first round. The Sydneysider had a busy jab, a telegraphed right hook and most of her punches were easily blocked.
To her credit, Eagle took the blows well and never looked like going down. While Eagle, who suffered just the third loss in her ninth professional fight, can be satisfied with her efforts, the result was never in doubt.