One was making his debut straight into modified rules and the other was making a return after a succession of injuries, but both Whanganui's Swade Wallace and Brian Alderton were very impressive on the undercard of Night of Assassins 3 at Springvale Stadium.
The Castlecliff rapper Wallace had tried his hand at amateur boxing earlier in the year, but showed equal adeptness with his legs and knees following his Assassins training, getting a unanimous decision win over Hawke's Bay's Ethan Bickers in their 80kg fight.
Bickers looked to utilise his longer leg kicks early, but Wallace showed his punching power, looking for the head but settling for the ribs every time they were open.
Wallace avoided more kicks while getting a trip on Bickers, and looked the more confident coming out of Round 1.
A wide-eyed Bickers came out more urgent to start the second round, but Wallace caught him coming in, while looking to connect with hooks as Bickers protected the head and moved away.
Wallace followed a knee strike with another hook, then backed away out of Bicker's leg kick range, as the Jackels Gym fighter now needed to chase him to try and get points.
There was a lot of grappling to start the final round and Bickers opened up a chance when he staggered Wallace with a hard jab, but the Whanganui fighter just reverted to instinct and manhandled the visitor into the corner, looking to open up with a pounding.
Bickers defended himself well, but he had not done enough to swing the judges in his favour.
A favourite of the old River City Rumble cards, Alderton had not been seen by local fight fans for a while, but he wasted no time getting back into his work with an exciting unanimous 80kg decision win over game New Plymouth fighter Daniel MC Watters.
Not fazed by his height disadvantage, Alderton absorbed Watters' opening volley and then came as advertised – straight forward, non-stop pounding.
Body shots by Alderton had both men tied up on the ropes, as the pace slowed somewhat from the earlier exchanges.
Both men opened up the second round as hard as the first, with Watters connecting with knees and the action nearly tumbling out of the ring.
Alderton came with head and body punch combinations, and while Watters was ducking his forehead to absorb the jabs and stay in the pocked, he looked very shaky from a hard uppercut near the end of the round.
That signalled the momentum shift, as Alderton kept coming in the final round, pounding Watters into the corner, then blocking knee strikes to keep the pressure on.
Watters was left swaying on the ropes as Alderton connected with leg kicks and went back up top with the fists, with the Taranaki fighter hanging on until the final bell, which saw Alderton get his hand raised.
There wasn't such good fortune for Shaun O'Conor as he ran into a buzz saw named Brent Surgue of Masterton, who secured the only stoppage win over the evening with a hard blow to the solar plexus leading to a second round knockout.
Both men were technical fighters and approached each other carefully, looking for the opening and then snapping out quick jabs and kicks, with Surgue getting the better of the early exchanges.
Entering the second round and Surgue upped the tempo, bringing some hard shots to move O'Conor back into the corner, then counter punching when the Whanganui fighter tried to force his way out.
A hard blow straight to the midsection put O'Conor down and he stayed hunched over on his knees, unable to move as the referee completed the ten count.
And an enthusiastic start by local Jesse Broughton was not enough to get him the 73kg victory over Wellington's Stacy Te Kuru, who got the night rolling well for his TLP club with a unanimous decision win.
After the opening four novice bouts, the first Modified Thai bout saw Broughton attempt to use his long jab, making Te Kuru cover up, but a good head kick checked the Whanganui fighter's momentum and gave the visitor confidence at the end of the round.
Te Kuru began pressing more in the second round, getting some hard jabs to move Broughton back into the ropes, where both fighters mistook the wooden clapper signalling 10 seconds left as being the end of the round.
Te Kuru looked the fresher fighter coming into the last round, although Broughton hurt him with some punches and momentarily got him back into the ropes, before the Wellingtonian recovered and again starting pressing forward, with a tired Broughton just staying out of trouble until the final bell.
It was enough to give Te Kuru the win.
Stacy Te Kuru (TLP) bt Jesse Broughton (TPK) by unanimous decision; Emilia Sa'u (TLP) bt Ashleigh Thompson (Pitbull Thai) by unanimous decision; Swade Wallace (Assassins Muay Thai) bt Ethan Bickers (Jackals) by unanimous decision; Brent Surgue (Fortitude Gym) bt Shaun O'Conor (TPK Whanganui) by knock out; Brian Alderton (Whanganui Kyokushin) bt Daniel MC Watters (Pitbull Thai) by unanimous decision.
4 Man Middleweight Tournament
Semifinal 1: Mike Makatea-Leylander (Assassins) bt Clayton Halliday (Toa Ngatihine Muay Thai) by unanimous decision.
Semifinal 2: Tiwai Tomoana (Jackals) bt Iain Blade (Elite Fight Complex) by unanimous decision.
Final: Makatea-Leylander bt Tomoana by unanimous decision.
NZMF Super Heavyweight Title
Moe Hussain (Smac Featherston) bt Lee Kara (Awa Kings) by split decision.
NZMF North Island Heavyweight Title
Navajo Stirling (TLP) bt Brendon Wallace (Assassins) by unanimous decision.