Junior Fa suffered a left elbow injury in sparring six days before his disappointing unanimous points victory over Mexican Luis Pascual, but didn't tell his team the full extent of the problem.
The still undefeated Fa has been criticised for his lack of workrate and "mongrel" against an opponent brought in at late notice whom he should have stopped, but the pain, and fear that he could do further damage, caused the 28-year-old New Zealand heavyweight to fight a conservative game plan.
His manager, Mark Keddell, revealed the issue to the Herald today. It was noticeable during the fight that Fa rarely threw the left hook and that he didn't connect with the jab enough.
"Junior hyperextended his left elbow in the second round of sparring against Malik Scott last Saturday," Keddell told the Herald before admitting the fight in Auckland last Friday which went the full 10 rounds "was a bit of a stinker".
"He had pain on both sides of it and had treatment during the week. We didn't realise the significance of the pain – Junior didn't tell us.
"We got an easy win which we should have got but we didn't do it in the fashion we wanted. We're here to entertain.
"Junior had to come clean and tell it was much worse than he told us. It was a mistake. We could have fought another day – but he felt under pressure. There was a lot of money invested by [the fight night's] promoter Shane Cameron so he didn't want to pull out. Because of that he overrode the game plan and went safe.
"It's a good lesson for him. He wasn't being aggressive in the clinch because he didn't want to hurt himself. He actively didn't go for the second or third phases [on attack] because he didn't want to hurt himself. He ground out the win but clearly didn't entertain.
"It was a bit of a stinker and we'll all disappointed because he was in fantastic physical shape otherwise. There aren't a lot of heavyweights out there with abs."
After a disappointing performance last time out against Craig Lewis in the United States – a majority decision win over six rounds - Fa wanted to put on a show against Pascual.
"I feel like I won every round - there was definitely stuff I could have done better. But it's all a learning thing and I will come back stronger," Fa said in the ring afterwards.
He was in brilliant physical condition – weighing in at 114.1kg, the lightest of his professional career – thanks to an intensive three-week camp with American Scott, Joseph Parker's friend and main sparring partner. But he clearly didn't throw enough punches and those he did throw didn't possess the required power.
There is a hint of irony too in the fact that fellow Kiwi Parker has also had problems with hyperextended elbows. He had surgery on both joints before his most recent fight against Anthony Joshua, the first loss of his professional career. Fa has now gone to 15-0.
Keddell said Fa's injury and performance might cause a re-think regarding the fighter's immediate future. The plan was to fight in the United States in October – Fa has three more fights under promoter Lou diBella – but it was likely he would now fight again in New Zealand next.
"We're going to reassess that," Keddell said. "We might even pause the contract while he gets right."