After months of managerial posturing, faux bickering and an injury delay, the Joseph Parker v Junior Fa heavyweight showcase is finally here.
The prolonged lead-up is run of the mill in the world of professional boxing, but from a fan's point of view, it's about bloody time we got it on.
Duco boss David Higgins has done a remarkable job, swimming against the Covid tide to stage the event. He's already promoted New Zealand's biggest pay-per-view event and our first legitimate heavyweight title, and can now count the highest ranked home grown heavyweight bout on his resume.
With former champion Parker at WBO number three and Fa at number five, the rankings alone make it a meaningful bout in global terms.
While it doesn't have the vitriol of David Tua v Shane Cameron, the bout has significant appeal for hungry boxing fans starved of New Zealand-based events since Parker stopped Alexander Flores in late 2018.
The build-up has been quiet — smack talk doesn't sit well with these unassuming Polynesian men who attended the same church growing up. Fa is quiet by nature, and while Parker is a smooth operator in front of the camera, he also cultivates a respectful, non-confrontational image.
All the same, expect Duco to pull a few strings to prompt a few pre-fight shenanigans, but not from the fighters themselves. Kevin Barry has no problem playing to his more abrasive nature to stir up the opposition camp and Eugene "we run these streets" Bareman is happy to spit tacks at Barry, whose history with Tua he has criticised.
Much has been made of the fighters' amateur histories, having fought four times with two wins apiece.
But the pro game is very different from a three-round amateur sprint. Boxing history is littered with former amateur conquerors being starched in the pros; Mike Tyson's demolition of 1984 Olympic gold medallist Henry Tillman, who twice defeated him as an amateur, comes to mind.
That said, there are some nuggets to be found in breaking down those fights, which still hold stylistically true. Fa is a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and possesses impressive mobility for a big man. As an amateur, Parker twice found him difficult to track down, a frustration he has also experienced against fleeter-footed opponents as a professional.
In the two fights where Fa stood his ground more, Parker's faster hands racked up points. This suggests if Fa gets the formula right, preventing Parker from getting inside his range, we could have an upset on our hands.
Fast forward almost a decade since Fa tipped Parker out of Olympic contention in 2012 and Parker is widely considered the favourite. The former WBO world champion has fought twice the number of professional rounds, has an almost 25 per cent better KO ratio and a vastly superior resume, which includes the likes of Dillian Whyte, Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz Jr and Carlos Takam.
Fa's 19-fight pro career began four years after Parker in 2016, and the most notable tick in his ledger is a points win over an ageing Dominick Guinn.
However, we shouldn't discount his experience in the semi-professional World Series of Boxing, fighting the likes of Oleksandr Uysk and training with Anthony Joshua and Joe Joyce. Nor should we dismiss multiple camps as a favoured sparring partner for Deontay Wilder.
Neither man has fought in more than a year. Both will be rusty, but the time out may play in Parker's favour. He maintained a busy schedule as a pro, fighting three or four times a year, but sustained considerable damage to his elbows and shoulders. The delay in the fight at the end of last year enabled him to have surgery on his elbows that may well enhance his punching speed and possibly his power as well.
Fa also appears to have resolved the recurrent health issue which has sapped his endurance in previous fights. It should go some way to ensuring he has the gas to take the fight into the deep waters he likely wants Parker to flounder in.
Parker has been legitimately dropped only once in his 29-fight career, against some tremendous punchers. Fa has also been dropped only once, but doesn't appear to eat the big shots as well as the granite-chinned Samoan.
Parker will likely look to get off to a fast start, applying the acid early to see if Fa folds. If he lands early, Parker is a good finisher and his hand speed allows him often to find the coup-de-grace shot.
Despite his reputation as an affable chap, he has a vicious streak, and this is in full display when he has his man hurt.
However, Parker's weaknesses play into Fa's strengths, which is where the fight gets interesting. Parker has difficulty tracking down opponents who move, a la Hughie Fury, and don't allow him to set his feet.
Fa moves well. Fa is a big man who has the size to tie up Parker in the clinch and nullify his hand speed. The mental game is a big part: being tied up, leant on and pushed around is tiring and frustrating, and Parker was clearly frustrated by Anthony Joshua (with the referee's help) and, even more concerning, by sparring partner Razvan Cojanu in their 2017 bout.
If Fa can use this aspect of the game to get the fight reset in centre ring, then Parker will have to continually find his way through an 11cm reach deficit and will require more than a double jab to pass.
This is a key point, as there have been question marks over Parker's ability to change strategy mid-fight. There have been occasions when he has seemingly run out of ideas. If Fa takes him to the later rounds and stifles his traditional strengths, Parker's ability to shift to Plan B or C is critical to victory.
Although Parker is a worthy favourite, it would pay to dig a little deeper than boxrec.com before making predictions. If you peel back the layers, there's more to this fight than meets the eye.
Don't blink during the first three rounds, as it will be all on, but the longer it goes, the more likely Fa has been able to hit a groove that the favourite might struggle to dislodge him from.