By PETER JESSUP
New Zealand has its first resident world boxing champion after South Auckland welder Maselino Masoe yesterday knocked out Denmark's Evans Ashira to collect the WBA middleweight belt.
But the real payday still awaits Masoe. He took the bout on a Don King undercard in Miami to contest the vacant title reportedly for less than US$30,000 ($58,260).
To get the match with Ashira, Masoe, the Pan Asian Boxing Association middleweight champion, had to agree to a 90-day turnaround against German Bert Schenk.
Schenk's managers had threatened legal action on rankings and that would have stalled yesterday's contest.
Promoter Mike Edwards was unclear on where the Masoe-Schenk fight would take place. The German mostly appears in Europe, but with King involved a US venue is likely.
For Masoe, 37, it was just reward after a long career. He has represented American Samoa at three Olympics and then collected a pro-record of 25 wins (23 KOs), one loss on points and two by knockdown. He was part of David Tua's camp before the Lennox Lewis title fight in 2000 but came back from the US beaten. He has since had seven wins, including the PABA title that opened international doors.
Ashira, 25-0 with 16 KOs, wasn't in the fight yesterday. He was knocked down in round one and ref Tommy Kinnons stopped the fight 44 seconds into round two after Masoe delivered his trademark right hand.
Edwards, who has trained Masoe since 2000, wasn't in Miami to see the victory because he has two fighters on the undercard of Anthony Mundine's world title defence in Sydney on Wednesday. Mundine will fight King's man, Manny Siaca, despite a bad ankle injury.
King has said a delay will mean the fight is not staged in Australia. Rotorua light-heavy Colin Hunia fights Nader Hamden on the undercard and Jamie Waru meets Jason Arena on Wednesday.
Schenk is ranked 15 by the WBC, five by the IBF, at three by the WBO and the Fight News listings have him at 10. Undisputed champion of the division is Bernard Hopkins, who holds the WBC and IBF belts and is ranked at one by Fight News.
Edwards has previously taken Anthony Bigeni to world title fights at light-heavy and cruiserweight, the Auckland baggage handler losing both. The only New Zealand-linked world champion was Bob Fitzsimmons, who won the middleweight, light-heavy and heavyweight titles in the late 1890s.