When Faamasino Aiolupotea stepped into the ring at the Battle for Life charity boxing event in Hastings on Saturday night he was driven by the memories of a close friend.
"Kirisome was a victim of suicide five years ago and I couldn't make it back to the Bay for his funeral because I was posted overseas with the army when I was based at the Burnham camp in Christchurch. I wanted to honour him and this was my way of paying my respects," Aiolupotea said, referring to Kirisome Oli-Alainuuese.
Oli-Alainuuese would have been proud of Aiolupotea's points decision victory over fellow Hawke's Bay fighter Tom Robson in the feature fight of the night which was a fundraiser for suicide prevention awareness.
"It was an epic battle which lived up to the hype expected of a main event. This was one of the best matches I have seen live and I'm sure the capacity crowd agreed. Both fighters did us proud and should hold their heads up high," organiser of the Superloans-sponsored event Patrick O'Brien said.
For Hastings Boys' High School product Aiolupotea, 32, it was his first taste of boxing.
"I played volleyball and a few other sports during my school days but I've never done anything like this. Fortunately I was able to spend a couple of months training and I had good trainers in Tony Morrell and Henare O'Keefe from the Flaxmere Boxing Academy.
A father of three with another one on the way, Ailopotea, said that may be his one and only bout.
"I better stick to the fatherhood-type stuff now. But it is such a cool event to help raise money for I would probably do it again if help was needed," he added.
His partner, Sarah Rangi, said she had never been so nervous.
"I don't think Sino was. But I was shaking throughout the whole fight ... it's good to have him back to help with the kids again."
For Robson, 26, who also dedicated his fight to the memory of a friend who was also a victim of suicide last year, it was his second loss in the event after being beaten by a close decision when he took on Tony Morrell in 2015.
"Hopefully it will be a case of third time lucky when I fight again," Robson said.
"I took a couple of shots to the nose in the first round and they proved costly with the ref. But I came back well in the second and third rounds and with blood everywhere the crowd loved it ... that's the main thing. It's for a good cause," added the O'Brien-trained fighter.
Mike Henare, a younger brother of Tall Blacks and Breakers basketball coach Paul Henare, who beat former All Black Roger Randle in the 2011 edition of the event, maintained the family's unbeaten run in the event with a win against national title-winning Hawke's Bay age group basketball coach Regan Spooner who used to play alongside Paul Henare in Bay age group basketball teams.
Former Hawks basketballer Dylan Perfect-Tait scored a close split decision win over Bay rugby supporter Allan Larbi.
For the first time in the history of the event a kickboxing bout was staged and it saw promising Hawke's Bay fighter Jimmy Pentland record a convincing win against Aucklander Mike Howard.
O'Brien pointed out that while exact figures have yet to be finalised it is expected the event will have raised more than $20,000 for the Hawke's Bay-based trust Anahera O Te Rangi.
"Although the event has ended the fight against suicide still continues and we hope that those suffering from this disease are inspired to seek help and continue to fight through the hard times," he added.
■ Results - page 35.