Extreme fisherman Matt Watson promised "a bit of mongrel" when he took to the ring in a charity boxing match and he did not disappoint.
Watson was one of 24 first-time boxers taking part in Saturday night's Fighting Cancer tournament at a packed Turner Centre in Kerikeri, which raised more than $6000 for Northland cancer patients. The event sold out two months before the first punch was thrown.
The ITM Fishing Show star said he was inspired to take up boxing after being caught in a shark feeding frenzy in Tahiti. Thinking about the scariest thing he could imagine - in his case, stepping into a ring with someone intent on beating him up - he decided to confront his fear head-on.
Before the fight he said his boxing skills hadn't improved as fast as he had hoped, so he would be "relying on a bit of mongrel".
Watson beat Whangarei builder Dale Hamlin on unanimous points, aided by two knockdowns.
In other high-profile match-ups, Kerikeri St John paramedic Nick Scott had a shocking start against builder Ben Maxwell, but came back strongly for a narrow loss by majority points; and in the heavyweight slug-fest, Kawakawa police Sergeant Nathan Davis overpowered Russell pub manager Tama Salive to win by unanimous points.
But the judges, and much of the crowd, said the best fight of the night was between Mangamuka farmer Rachael MacCarthy and Kerikeri gym trainer Leah-May Morrow.
Professional referee John Conway said it was an outstanding first-time fight with a close result, the win by majority points going to MacCarthy.
"They really expended themselves, they had good boxing knowledge and above-average power. It was a really impressive fight," Conway said.
The Far North-Bay of Islands branch of the Certified Builders Association organised the event. All proceeds will go to the Pink and Steel Pilates Trust, which provides rehabilitation to cancer patients after surgery, chemo or radiotherapy.
About 500 people squeezed into the Turner Centre Plaza, 310 of them in $100 VIP seats.