Kiwi light heavyweight Jerome Pampellone has had to quickly adjust to preparing for a new opponent for the most significant event of his professional career after the reappearance of Covid-19 across the ditch ruled out Australian Michael van Nimwegen.
Pampellone will now fight fellow New Zealander Joshua Tai in the main event on Friday's Sky City Fight Nights event at the Sky City theatre, and Pampellone should be well aware of his opponent's strengths and weakness because he fought Tai in his last contest in May.
That was an unanimous points victory for Pampellone after six rounds, and this time the aim is a stoppage in a fight which will be broadcast on live television.
"That's the plan," Pampellone's coach Isaac Peach said. "A guy like Josh is a really tough dude and he's likely to be in survival mode. It's really hard to hurt guys who are trying to survive. We've put some stuff in place this time to try to get rid of him, but it won't be a walk in the park – he's a hard man."
Tai, 34, has been stopped only twice in 18 professional fights.
The 25-year-old Pampellone, who is undefeated over seven professional fights, will go into Friday's clash with a reputation as a talented fighter on the rise and one who soon may require venues larger than Friday's boutique, theatre-style seating arrangement, albeit one which includes 18 corporate tables. There only 700 general admission seats.
"The interest has been huge and it's on track to sell out," promoter Nick Randell said. "A genuine 50-50 fight between cruiserweights Nik Charolampous and Joshua Francis means the atmosphere will be electric and it's a fantastic opportunity for Jerome to show why he's touted as the next big thing in New Zealand boxing."
Pampellone, who has signed a four-fight deal with P3 Promotions, is seen as a special talent even when compared with undefeated training partners David Light, a cruiserweight, and super welterweight Andre Mikhailovich. Light is ranked world No4 by the WBO.
"It's a big stage for him," Peach said. "It's on TV, it's really a coming out party for Jerome. It's letting the public see him. It's being pushed pretty hard by Sky which is great. From here we're looking for bigger fights."
Not that the occasion is likely to overawe a young man who pushed Kiwi Olympic heavyweight David Nyika close over three rounds last year despite giving up at least 12kg.
"He's good under pressure," Peach said. "He's fought the top amateurs in the world including the world No1 in Russia. This isn't new to him.
"The big goal is a world title so he'll fight whoever is in front of him. We're always looking five steps ahead so it's another fight in the journey."
One intriguing element to Pampellone's journey is who he fights after Tai, assuming all goes to plan. It's understood John Parker, brother of former world heavyweight champion Joseph, has featured in discussions. If so, it would set up a big domestic showdown between two undefeated prospects.
The Sky City Friday Night Fights event will be the third edition of a concept that P3 Promotions' Randell believes fills an important niche for the sport in New Zealand. The card will feature seven fights, including a cruiserweight celebrity showdown between Logan Dodds, trained by Monty Betham, and Todd Dialectos.
Randell said the events provided a key platform for aspiring Kiwi professional boxers. Tickets are sold through Humanitix, a ticketing service that channels its profits into funding literacy programmes for young girls, Maori and Pasifika people and helping disadvantaged learners get equal access to digital education.
P3 Promotions has also partnered with Head Tek to implement what Randell described as the "most robust pre- and post-fight screening seen in New Zealand boxing in order to help ensure the best duty of care of our athletes".
The Sky City Fight Nights event at Sky City will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1 from 7.30pm on Friday.