The gloves are off as Thriller in the Chiller announce contenders for this year’s charity boxing event. Ten hopefuls are vying for a knockout performance. Louise Scott speaks to one couple hooked on training

Steve Gillard’s first sparring session resulted in a bloody nose.

Partner Michelle Walker was left in shock after receiving her first body punch.

The pair are two of 20 plucked from a group of 36 to compete in Queenstown’s biggest boxing tournament in November.

It has been a tough slog. Training at 6am, gym sessions, dietary plans, reneging on social activities and a wallop of will-power.

Walker describes it as a lifestyle change.

The duo, both Brits, found out their fate on Friday morning. It was a anxious wait – Walker was more fidgety worrying only one would make the cut.

“I was more nervous about him rather than myself. We’re absolutely ecstatic we both got through and are there to support each other 100 percent.”

It also means they can take the piss out of each other at the same time, Gillard laughs.

They decided to throw their hat in the ring after being spectators for the last two years.

Gillard: “I thought I could do it so had to put my money where my mouth is.”

A couple of mates have competed previously.

Watching how they trained and focused was contagious and sparked their determination.

Doing it together also acts as an encouraging boost.

“Everyone has a down day but luckily it is never at the same time. I might be lying in bed thinking I can’t be arsed to get up this morning – but she will be up. That will drag me up and vice versa.”

Walker reckons it is how they hang out now – in active wear in the gym.

While they were already pretty active being part of Thriller has changed the approach to training. It is more focused, they push themselves harder put more pressure on themselves.

While bootcamp sessions, including technique and fitness levels, have boosted confidence, they have also changed eating habits. They recognise which food makes them sluggish for training and oust it from the menu. Eating out has been kicked to the kerb and a pint with lunch is a no-no.

All competitors follow strict rules – including a no-booze policy.

Some are obviously missing the odd beverage.

After the contender announcement coach Steve Orr suggested going for a celebratory pint. Only one lone Scotsman raised his arm albeit slowly – concerned it was a trick question.

After some reassurance it wasn’t a joke all 20 were sticking their hands up for a tipple later in the day.

Gillard admits it’s tough watching your mates with a beer – while you sip a raspberry and coke.

He plays for Wakatipu rugby team and takes on 25-year-old fellow Brit Paul Mountain.

Bruna Tardetti, who turns 26 today, will be sitting opposite Walker.

She’s originally from Brazil and was stoked to hear she’d made the cut.

“I am nervous and scared but also excited to be part of such a good experience.”

Hearing who they’d face in the ring – neither Walker or Gillard are on guard.

On the contrary they both reckon it is a pretty tight unit and their opponents will help them perform on the night.

They were full of praise for fellow contenders stressing everyone has put in a huge amount of gut and effort. Whether they end up red or blue Walker says your corner is your team; your backup, encouragement and support.

Organiser and trainer Simon Green says it is a tight and sharp bunch this year.

A pre-qualifier bootcamp, implemented after 65 people applied, meant the group was in a better shape coming into camp.

“This allowed us to really push the development of the group over the five week contender camp and has set us in extremely good stead as we look forward to the next eight week camp as the level of boxing already b

Thrilling pair: Contenders Steve Gillard and Michelle Walker PICTURE: BLAIR PATTINSON
Thrilling pair: Contenders Steve Gillard and Michelle Walker

eing displayed is very strong”

Every year it’s tough letting folk down who don’t end up with a fight card. He knows how hard they’ve worked but has to find the fairest and most even match-ups amongst the group.

Thriller in the Chiller, November 26, Queenstown Events Centre. Limited table tickets – closing tomorrow. Grandstand tickets on sale Monday.