Boxing: Elliot at ease in unfamiliar arena

By Kris Shannon

Paul Gallen (L) and Hika Elliot face off during the Fight for Life Weigh In. Photo / Getty Images.
Paul Gallen (L) and Hika Elliot face off during the Fight for Life Weigh In. Photo / Getty Images.

On the arm of a lovely lady dressed more for a mardi-gras than a weigh-in, Hika Elliot looked surprisingly at ease as he was guided into the glamorous surrounds of Sky City.

Elliot may be more used to packing down in a scrum than entering a packed room of camera-phone wielding fans and a throng of media, but the Chiefs' hooker was capably playing the part required of a modern boxer.

The All Black was perhaps the calmest of the athletes answering Colonel Bob Sheridan's questions on stage at the Fight for Life weigh-in today, showing a steadiness usually reserved for a lineout throw.

Some of league's hardest men insisted they were feeling no fear but their delivery at times belied their words. Cronulla Sharks' enforcer Paul Gallen, for one, probably has cause for concern.

He has been handed the unenviable task of facing Elliot, an imposing figure who weighed in nine kilograms heavier than the Australian.

In addition to his physical prowess, Elliot also has something of a fighting pedigree on his side - he is a black belt in karate. While the actual skills involved in the two disciplines do not translate in a significant way, Elliot thought his exploits in the dojo helped to explain his comfort heading into tomorrow night's fight.

"Being able to control the nerves is going to be a big thing,'' he said. "My experience in that area is definitely going to help me with those nerves and with my fight plan come fight night.

"Hopefully, come tomorrow night, I can express myself in a good way and put a good show on.''

Elliot wouldn't be drawn into his opponent's state of mind, shunning the trash talk that usually accompanies the sweet science, but he did enjoy the other aspects associated with the sport.

"It's a bit of a frenzy, isn't it? There's a lot of interest around the fight night,'' he said.

"[The entrance] was a bit epic but I suppose it's part and parcel of being a boxer for the night.''

That description of being a boxer for the night was apt among all the hoopla that came with the weigh-ins for the seven bouts, two of which are professional.

Despite Sheridan's best efforts - the announcer was rather optimistic in his assertion tomorrow night's event would be almost as exciting as Juan Manuel Marquez's knockout of Manny Pacquiao last weekend, a contender for fight of the year - there was no escaping this is more exhibition than real sport.

The league and rugby players (and rower Eric Murray) were carefully positioned in front of the cameras for their 'stare-down' photos, and it would hardly be a surprise if helpful minders were to appear in the ring on fight night to do the same.

That's taking nothing away from the competitors, or the worthiness of the cause, but boxing fans are more likely to shield their eyes than shell out for the pay-per-view.

- APNZ

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