Monty Betham proved he has lost little of his skill as a boxer when stopping former All Black Carlos Spencer with a third-round TKO in a Fight for Life bout at the Claudelands Arena last night.
Spencer, fighting in his first, and according to him afterwards, last, professional bout, was extremely cautious in the first two rounds, and it was clear why following a withering burst by Betham which referee Lance Revill stopped 35 seconds into the third and penultimate round.
It began with Spencer's first sustained attack of the night, but Betham, a former Kiwi and Warriors league player with six professional fights behind him, hit his opponent with a straight right hand and quickly turned him around into a corner with a unrelenting barrage that Revill was right to stop. Spencer complained, but soon got over his disappointment.
Betham said afterwards: "He's a brave man. He got a bad rap as the boy from the Toffee Pops ad but he is as tough as they come."
Fighting at cruiserweight, Spencer, the coach of the Eastern Province Kings in South Africa, was an extremely trim 84kg to Betham's 88kg, the result of the conditioning for the scheduled four three-minute rounds.
His game plan was clearly to cautiously work his way into the fight, but Betham, who lost by decision to Shane Cameron in his last fight, was far too classy.
Spencer said: "It was as tough as I thought it was going to be, probably tougher. He showed his true class tonight.
"It took a long time to think about this challenge because Monty is a good mate and great boxer. It was a one-off."
In another undercard fight to the Joseph Parker main event, Chiefs prop and crowd favourite Ben Tameifuna lost in a controversial split decision against new Manly league player Willie Mason.
The Claudelands Arena crowd reacted with surprise at the decision, with two judges awarding the three-round super-heavyweight fight to Mason, and one giving it to Tameifuna. Many believed the first round was even, but that Tameifuna had easily done enough to win the next two and therefore the fight.
Even Mason expressed his shock, saying: "I don't think I won that, I think Ben beat me."
He added: "Sorry Hamilton."
Switching between orthodox stance and southpaw, Tameifuna, who had tipped the scales at 142kg compared to Mason's 118kg, regularly hit his opponent with powerful right hands. He conserved his energy superbly, and even had the professional's knack of appearing to score points at the end of each round.
Tameifuna, who raised his hands in triumph after the final bell, and wore his Mooloo-coloured mouthguard over his right ear as he waited for the result, thanked the crowd for coming and apologised for the result.
"I wanted to improve on last year, that was my goal."