Tauranga's top-ranked boxers Gunnar "The Stunna" Jackson and Anthony "TNT" Taylor are fighting tonight in the Time To Shine boxing feature at the ABA Stadium, Auckland.
Jackson, 29, (22w-7l-3d) was supposed to fight former Australian Super Welterweight champion Fred Tukes in Jackson's first fight at the lower weight division after dropping down from his Middleweight 72.54kg to 69.97kg.
But Tukes was a late withdrawal for personal and contractual reasons so up steps inexperienced Matthew Tuakolo, 23, from Pridelands Boxing Gym in Otara to fill the void.
Chris Walker from TGA BOX, who trains both Jackson and Taylor, said it was disappointing Tukes pulled out but it was still an important bout for Jackson.
"We want to see how well he goes and how comfortable he feels at the lower weight. His body fat percentage is down to about 11.2, which is as low as we want to get it," Walker said.
"We are expecting to beat (Tuakolo) but he does come to fight and put it this way he will not lie down for us. He will give it the best fight he can."
Taylor, 28, (12w-1l-1d) takes on Sonny "Arch Angel" Vannathy, a renowned kick boxer originally from Laos, in his boxing debut.
"This is his first venture into the boxing ring but he is a 46-fight veteran in kick boxing. His claim to fame is winning King of the Ring in Auckland twice and you have to be pretty good to win those. He has some good skills and is a professional athlete," Walker said.
Walker confirmed that the big fight night of the year in Tauranga will be held on May 14 featuring both Jackson and Taylor. No opponents have yet been signed.
Gunnar Jackson chats about his career ahead of tonight's fight in Auckland.
What drew you to boxing and what is your earliest boxing memory?
When I was 9-years-old, my older brother used to box down in Wellington for Russell Oliver. I looked up to him and wanted to give it a go, and I also wanted to learn how to protect myself if I needed to. So I started boxing when I was 15 with Chris Walker in Tauranga.
In your opinion who's the best you've faced and why?
The best fighter I have fought has to be Ryota Murata from Japan because he was strong, has a high work rate, go-forward and is a skilful boxer who won Olympic gold at the 2012 London games.
If you could fight anyone either past or present who would it be and why?
I would love to fight Erislandy Lara in the Super Welter division because he has a world title and he's a classy fighter from Cuba. Also Triple G in the Middleweight division because he's simply the best in the business and he hits hard. I would love to see how hard he actually punches, haha. And Sirimongkol Singwancha from Thailand because he is ranked 7th for the WBO and I want his belt to get back in the rankings at Super Welter.
What do you rank as your best accomplishment in fight sport?
Fighting Anthony Mundine on seven days' notice after Christmas with limited training over that period and going 10 rounds with him, and also winning the Middleweight WBO Oriental belt against Opeti Tagi.
What is your goal for this year and where do you want to be this time next year?
This year's goal is to get ranked in the top 10 for WBA, WBO, IBF and have a world title shot.
Any final words for your opponent tonight?
It doesn't matter how hard he trains for this fight. I'm gonna be in the best shape of my life to let him know what The Stunna is all about. Nothing's gonna stop me from winning.
By Craig Thomson