A gutted Winter Festival charity boxer forced to withdraw with injury will still be cheering his fellow fighters.
Shotover Canyon Swing site manager Darren Malatesta suffered a tear in his shoulder’s rotator cuff during a punch-bag session and requires surgery.
Malatesta, 41, was to fight 21-year-old Crowne Plaza concierge Steven Walsh at the festival’s 11-bout Thriller in the Chiller next Saturday night.
Organisers have found a replacement, Dunedinite Jason Hughes, 34, who’d been training for a separate event.
Malatesta says it’s difficult after three months’ training to not fight.
“I’d worked hard, a lot of tough training. I was gutted but not just for me – I had an opponent. I’m glad they found him a fight.”
Festival director Simon Green says it’s incredibly sad to lose Malatesta at such a late stage.
“All the boxers were pretty affected by it as this sort of injury can happen to anyone. It’s bad luck and even worse timing.”
Walsh says he was devastated when Malatesta came to tell him at training this month as Walsh thought his fight was over too.
His parents have booked flights from the UK and his brother is also coming from Australia.
“They’ve done really well to get me another fight. I’m really happy,” Walsh says, adding: “I’d have got in the ring with anyone at that stage. They were talking about one lad who is a Thai kickboxer and really good and I was like, ‘I don’t care’.
“But I was just as gutted for Darren. He came up and apologised but I said there’s no need to – it’s not your fault in the slightest.
“I feel really bad for him – he’s put in as much work as the rest of us,” Walsh says.
Malatest still turns up to training to support the fighters and will be at the Events Centre on the night.
“I’m still looking forward to it. They just have to give it their best.”