A sold-out crowd - check. Great boxing action - check. Wonderful support from the council, business, iwi and locals - check. An event beamed into millions of homes around the world - check.
Last Saturday’s Wahine Toa II boxing night had all that and more. Promoter Dean Lonergan said the hugely successful fight night - the biggest Whāngarei had ever seen - should ensure the city gets more major boxing bouts in the future.
At a packed and enthusiastic McKay Stadium last Saturday, Kaitāia’s Mea Motu beat India’s Chandni Mehra to retain her IBO super-bantamweight world title. Meanwhile, Whangārei’s Lani Daniels earned an impressive majority decision against Australian Desley “Lady D” Robinson for the vacant IBF light heavyweight world belt.
With the hard-fought win, Daniels added to her IBF heavyweight title - becoming the first Kiwi boxer ever to hold world championship belts at two weights at the same time.
Promoted by Lonergan’s D&L Events, he said the night was an amazing event that was seen by millions around the globe, including China - one of the world’s largest markets.
Lonergan said the crowd support on the night was amazing, particularly for the local fighters on the bill.
‘’There was some great haka for Lani and Mea as they came out and that show of Māori culture was seen around the world. And the performances of the two champs, and that of Jerome Pampellona (who showed some real power to stop Mexican veteran Rogelio Medina - 41-9 before this fight - within a minute of the first round) were very impressive,’’ he said.
When asked if the success of the event meant the city could expect more in the future, Lonergan was enthusiastic.
‘’Every time you fill out a venue that holds about 1200 people you’ve got to be excited. The level of support from everybody - Whangārei District Council, local businesses, iwi and the general public - has been amazing. They all really embraced the idea.
‘’We had two Māori, wahine toa world champions from Northland, fighting in their home region and at the top of their games - that really excited people.’’
Lonergan said the turnout and response to the fight - which saw plenty of people turning up for events around it, such as the weigh-in at the Town Basin and sparring at Tutukaka - showed that there was an appetite in the region for world-class boxing events.
‘’Whangārei, and Northland, have proved that they want and can host major events. Going forward, I think Whangārei is a wonderful place to put on events like this and we will do something here again.’’
He said for a few hours on Saturday, Whangārei was the focus of boxing fans around the world and the city did itself proud.
‘’Whangārei put on a really good show for itself. Boxing is such a global sport and these fights were watched around the world, including in China, which is one of the largest markets there is. Whangārei came out looking very good in the eyes of the world and that would have been great publicity for the city,’’ Lonergan said.
‘’From my point of view, Whangārei is a great place to hold such events and all the fighters and their teams loved being (here) for this event.
‘’Whangārei is really on the up and if you get the four lanes up from Auckland and with the other developments taking place, it will really take off and make it even more attractive (for big international events to be held here).’’
While Motu and Daniels may have to go overseas to fight bigger opponents, Lonergan said he hopes to have them both fighting in Northland again soon.