It was a victory for league over rugby in the celebrity boxing stakes at the Woodstock Fight For Life last night.
Tough Sharks and Australia loose forward Paul Gallen beat All Black Liam Messam on points in the most skilful and closest contest of the night in the celebrity ranks.
The Gallen and Messam bout was a tough call for the judges, which was reflected in the split decision which gave the recent rugby league World Cup winner the nod because of the superior number of shots he applied to the All Blacks' body. There was also a juicy overhand right which connected in the second round.
Messam didn't lack hunger. He delivered his fair share of punishment, including a useful right-hand cross in the second round but the granite chin of Gallen held firm. A meaty uppercut with about 15 seconds to go in the third was not enough to sway the decision.
"I was confident in the first round but as the fight went on he really came at me," Gallen said. "I respect the sport - there's nowhere to hide. There's always a big bloke coming at you gritting his teeth. It gets a bit scary."
"He showed awesome skills for a league player," Messam said. "It was a s*** night for the Chiefs. Hopefully our rugby will be better than our boxing."
Gallen perhaps did marginally better in the first two rounds; certainly Messam's corner appeared to think so as their fighter pursued Gallen in the third and final round, won by Messam with some good punches. But the points damage had been done and Gallen was a deserved winner.
Earlier Chiefs rugby prop Ben Tameifuna produced a surprise with his 144kg grace and speed, though it wasn't enough to defeat Brisbane Broncos and Kangaroos league forward Sam Thaiday who won a unanimous points decision in their bout.
It was one of the more robust fights on the card. Both athletes looked more like boxers than brawlers or swarmers as they danced around the ring - a sight which surprised many who expected the huge Tameifuna to be more lumbering than limber.
Thaiday's jabs and overhand punching proved too much despite the agility of Tameifuna who, while he threw plenty of punches and did well enough in defence, didn't connect enough with the elusive league forward.
Earlier Chris Cairns triumphed by unanimous decision over Simon Doull in the clash of the cricketers.
Cairns' persistence with his overhand right and consistency with combinations convinced the judges he was worthy of a unanimous victory. Doull was more circumspect. When he launched a flurry of punches, they tended to be absorbed by Cairns' block.
"I'd like to thank Doully for coming out as a mate because there have been a lot of things going on," Cairns said. "It was a good chance to come and enjoy the buzz in front of a large crowd again. I haven't done that for eight years. It'll be the first and last time for a while."
Doull was similarly effusive about his opponent.
"You've put on a big show tonight, so congrats to coming out without worrying about things too much and training over the last week and a half with all that crap going on. Good on ya," he said in reference to reports of an International Cricket Council investigation into allegations of match-fixing. Cairns has strenuously denied any involvement.
Doull produced one of the better retorts of the night when MC Clint Brown hinted they might've struggled to produce many punches in the last round. "Cos we're stuffed," Doull blurted.
Television presenter Stephen McIvor and writer Steve Kilgallon put up a spirited scrap in the opening fight which the judges saw as a draw in spite of the popular opinion that McIvor had won. McIvor knocked Kilgallon down in the second round for a standing eight count but Kilgallon produced several punching flurries across the fight to redeem himself.