Knockout event all round

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Intense battle: Alice Kelly, 28, left, and Dani Sherman, 32, slug it out at the Queenstown Events Centre on Saturday. PICTURE: BLAIR PATTINSON

With more than $40,000 raised, the presentation of a historic belt to a previous contender, and one of the best amateur boxing bouts Queenstown has seen, Thriller 2016 was a knockout.

About 1250 people packed into the Queenstown Events Centre on Saturday night to watch 20 residents battle for glory during the charity boxing event.

Queenstown boxer Richie Hadlow holds the historic Jameson Belt at Saturday night’s Thriller...
Thrilled: Queenstown boxer Richie Hadlow holds the historic Jameson Belt at Saturday night’s charity boxing event in Queenstown PICTURE: BLAIR PATTINSON
Before the first bout, a special presentation was made to Richie Hadlow, New Zealand’s light welterweight champion, who began his boxing career at Thriller four years ago.

In July, Hadlow won the national title for the third time in Rotorua, where David Nyika was awarded the Jameson Belt, for the “most scientific boxer”.

However, a month later,  the judges changed their minds and announced Hadlow would receive the belt which has been awarded since 1927 but has not been presented to an Otago boxer since the 1950s.

Hadlow, who missed out on representing New Zealand in the Olympics, is now focused on the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

On Saturday night, Thriller organiser Simon Green presented him with a cheque for $10,000 to go towards the $40,000 he needs to raise.

VIDEO: CHARITY BOXING EVENT A SUCCESS

Green says when he first organised Thriller, as part of the Queenstown Winter Festival, he’d never been to a boxing event — now he had a ‘‘serious passion’’ for the sport.

“Being able to help [Hadlow], someone who’s even more passionate … to be able to give them that forum that they don’t get in the amateur events to actually show people what they’re doing, what they’ve accomplished and where they’re headed and to be able to support that as well is very good.”

The goal every year was to make the event and quality of fights better than the previous year, and that goal was achieved on Saturday night.

“The guys acquitted themselves so well and that’s what makes it.”

The fight of the night was between Dani Sherman and Alice Kelly, who brought the crowd to its feet at the end of the three rounds, leaving many in the audience hoarse. Sherman was originally to fight Megan Mathews but, a fortnight ago, Mathews was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury.

Green initially cancelled the bout because finding a competent boxer in a lightweight division had proved too difficult.

But Kelly read about Sherman’s plight in the Mountain Scene and contacted Green to volunteer.

Although she had been part of the initial boot camp, no match was found for her, but she continued training and has lost weight over the past few months.

The pair traded blows almost non-stop for the three two-minute rounds, prompting referee Lance Revill to publicly commend them at the end of the fight for one of the most intense amateur bouts he had seen.

Ultimately, it was Kelly who took the win in a split decision.

The event raised more than $42,000 for the Branches Charitable Trust, two big ticket items raising about $13,000 alone.

A basketball signed by Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata and professional basketballer Steven Adams went under the hammer for $7000, and a boxing glove signed by Joseph Parker was sold at auction for more than $5000.

Green, who has announced he is stepping down from management of the event, says $250,0000 had been raised for charity in the past seven years. He would miss the behind-the-scenes blood, sweat, tears and friendship.

“I will miss … the camaraderie and the atmosphere and the fun that we have at training sessions.”

Otago Daily Times