PRO fighter Zane 'Hybrid' Hopman walked away from the Super 8 Cruiserweight eliminator crownless but content he proved himself against the reigning champion.
Hopman, 24, a former kickboxing world gold medallist and national champion fighting out of the Fortitude Thai Boxing Gym in Masterton, lost his semifinal boxing match on a unanimous points decision against eventual winner Israel Adesanya on Tuesday night.
The bout at SkyCity in Auckland comprised three strategic and technical three-minute rounds of boxing from both fighters that commentators had branded as one of the most skilful battles of the night.
"I think Israel found some respect for my boxing. Like he said at the end of the fight, I was slicker than he thought," Hopman said.
Eketahuna shepherd Lance Bryant, 34, won his semifinal against Kaeo-born boxer James Porter, 33, but was dropped by Adesanya during the last 10 seconds of their finals bout. Adesanya won the title on points after landing a barrage of blows on Bryant while remaining largely untouched himself.
Hopman said his bout with Adesanya, 26, would have been better served as a final but he was satisfied with his first outing against another cross code fighter who four days earlier had taken the kickboxing King in the Ring eight-man Eliminator title.
The boxing tournament on Tuesday was broadcast live on Sky Sport and the Hopman versus Adesanya bout had been hyped as the grudge match of the evening, with the ex-pat Nigerian trash-talking Hopman right up to the weigh-in.
"Then all the talk disappeared when we got into the ring. That was quite hard case because he was in Lance's ear the whole time during their bout but with me there was silence. He was too busy trying to fight me actually."
Hopman said his eight-week fight camp had paid dividends on the night and his corner men Rhys Richards and Bryce Baron had been invaluable, as had his sponsors and fans back at home.
"To lose isn't ideal and I hate losing but some of the rewards from my fight camp were phenomenal all the same," Hopman said.
"I went toe to toe with New Zealand's best cruiserweight fighter in boxing and kickboxing, I wasn't knock down or knocked out, and I tagged him with more shots than he's probably had in a long time," Hopman said.
"I watched the replay and if anything I just needed to let my hands go with more confidence."
Hopman, whose pro record now stands at one win and three losses, said his manager Craig Thomson was in Las Vegas with another fighter and he was looking for more matches in the New Year "to help get my win column up".
Other winners on Tuesday night included Monty Betham, who took the NZNBF cruiserweight title with a unanimous-decision win over James Langton, and Paul Gallen, who also took a unanimous victory over Bodene Thompson.