Champ's just itching for a fight

By Jared Smith, jared.smith@wanganuichronicle.co.nz


When Wanganui-born boxer Robert Berridge says he wants to fight somebody, they don't exactly all come running.

The 28-year-old southpaw is hungry, and frustrated, that as he strapped a New Zealand championship belt around his waist last week, he had been unable to make a statement by beating somebody for it.

Berridge was awarded the vacant New Zealand Professional Boxing Association's (NZPBA) light heavyweight title on March 28 in a bittersweet moment for the young man.

NZPBA officials felt he was the best in the weight class in the country and it's not like other fighters were lining up to prove them wrong.

"We offered numerous challenges to the top fighters in New Zealand, and they turned it down," Berridge said.

"Not just once, but numerous times.

"They all said they weren't prepared for it, wasn't the right time, wasn't the right show."

Instead, Berridge fought a token non-title match against South Auckland's Moses Ioelu on a card at the Auckland Boxing Association, earning a TKO stoppage after a third round body shot.

Ioelu took the bout on four weeks' notice after Berridge's planned Samoan opponent got his visa declined. Presented with his belt at the fight's conclusion, Berridge said Ioelu had more gumption than the half-a-dozen other title contenders the fight was presented to, furthering his desire to go abroad and take on the world's best.

"New Zealand's too small. There's a couple of names out there but they won't fight on our show or someone else's show or the money's not good enough," he said.

Maybe all his potential opponents had been on YouTube and seen what "the Butcher", whose record stands at 18-1-1 with 13 knockouts, did to the undefeated Australian Trent Broadhurst in 2011 coming back from points deficit to knock him flat in the fifth round. "He sat up, looked at his corner and shook his head and sat back down," Berridge recalls.

Perhaps they also watched him carve up the tough Joel Casey, another match on Australia's FOX Sports, in two brutal rounds back in October.

Australian promoters love to watch the Kiwi fight, so with the necessary New Zealand belt now in his possession Berridge is eager to more on to the next step against world-ranked Serge Yannick in Melbourne on April 18.

The match-up is on the undercard of a fight by top Australian light heavyweight Blake Caparello the only man to beat Berridge with a points decision last May.

As if to further rub it into the "not the right time" crowd, Berridge was happy to face Yannick in 10 rounds at Melbourne's Croatia Club just three weeks after his Auckland bout.

"He's tough, that's all I really know about him, an orthodox fighter. If I beat him and beat him good, I'll get to move up to the top 15 in the world," he said.

"I'll go there to prove a point."

As if to distance himself from the frustrations he felt trying to find someone locally to man up from his Auckland-base at Robust Fitness, the Butcher decided come back and work off some steam with his first cousin, Paul Berridge, at his Fight Fit gym for a two-week training camp before heading to Australia. The former strength and conditioning coach for the Wanganui rugby team, Paul does not go easy on his relative. There's been bridge-to-bridge runs alongside the river, and they are spending this Saturday on the sand dunes putting in the hard yards.

"In Auckland that would be a 30- minute trip [to get there]," Robert Berridge says. "Here, I can run to the gym in the morning."

The punishment goes both ways, as the nasty bruise on Paul Berridge's side despite wearing a body belt during sparring proves.

"It's away from it [in Wanganui]," Robert Berridge said.

"I like having a different environment to train at."

The cousins will spend next week getting his 82.5kg weight back down to 79.38kg before flying to Melbourne for the April 17 weigh-ins.

Born in Wanganui, as a child Berridge moved to Ratahi with his parents for two years. Their separation saw him go with his mother to Auckland.

Working as a trainer at Robust Fitness, he came under the tutelage of Vasco Kovacevic and Cleve Langdon, having his first professional fight in 2009.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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