Tevita Pangai Junior showed off his boxing skills in the best fight of the evening, but NRL star Junior Paulo’s stunning beating of football legend Ben Hannant sparked the biggest controversy on a wild night of boxing in Townsville on Saturday.
The Battle on the Reef promotion saw nine soccer stars past and present take to the ring with eye-opening results as two of the fights ended in brutal fashion.
Former Queensland State of Origin forward Ben Hannant provided the most disturbing spectacle of the evening when a right hand from the Parramatta Eels enforcer left him seeing stars 30 seconds after the start of the first round of their fight – but the referee failed to end the fight.
Hannant was clearly glassy-eyed and could barely get up, but the official failed to stop the fight to save him from further punishment.
Ben Hannant (left) suffered huge and unnecessary punishment from Junior Paulo (center) after the referee failed to stop the fight despite him being so badly injured he could barely stand up.
The former Cowboys star’s corner was also too late to throw in the towel, leaving their fighter to risk serious injury as Paulo continued to crush him with huge punches.
Experienced boxing commentator Andy Raymond was left furious when the referee allowed Hannant to continue fighting.
“Someone stop that!” He struggled to get up and now he’s going to get hurt if they let this continue,” he said. Stan Sports coverage of the fight.
“There’s nothing worse than a brave corner or a referee who can’t control what’s happening.
“They’re not professional boxers… they’re rugby league guys getting a chance in the boxing ring, and it’s crap.”
Australian WBA Oceania middleweight champion Michael Zerafa was also scathing about the decision to let the fight continue.
Hannant’s corner finally threw in the towel (pictured), but the fight should have been stopped as soon as it was abandoned 30 seconds into the first round.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (right) produced the punch of the evening when he knocked down Jarrod Wallace (left) with a vicious uppercut just seven seconds into their fight.
Tevita Pangai Junior takes a punch from Frank Amato in their six-round war. The former Bulldogs NRL star won on points in a thrilling clash that was easily the best fight on the card.
“It was a bad decision by the referee, he was standing and he couldn’t even walk straight,” he said in commentary.
“That’s why some fighters become serious and suffer permanent injuries, because of decisions like that.”
Another decision – this time from a judge – infuriated fans and left experts stunned at the end of the evening’s final fight.
Paulo Aokuso put on a masterful display of boxing to clearly beat Argentina’s Gabriel Omar Diaz, who never had a chance in their 10-round fight.
However, boos rang out from the crowd and Aokuso was visibly shocked when one of the judges scored the fight 95-95.
Some fans were heard shouting: “What fight were you watching?” when the score was read and a mystified Zerafa added, “I thought he (Aokuso) won almost every round.”
Boos and shouts of “What fight were you watching?” » » sounded when a judge disgraced himself by calling the fight between Paolo Akuso (right) and Gabriel Omar Diaz a draw – although Akuso completely dominated his opponent, who barely won a round
Dragons great Matt Cooper (right) lost on points to Broncos legend Justin Hodges, but showed pride in his first professional fight
Melbourne Storm giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona used his 200cm, 130kg frame to hammer Dolphins forward Jarrod Wallace to the deck with an incredible uppercut just seven seconds into their fight.
Wallace somehow beat the count and reached the third and final round before Asofa-Solomona forced his corner to throw in the towel by knocking him down with more huge punches that left his nose bleeding profusely .
Tevita Pangai Junior wants to forge a career in boxing after leaving the NRL in controversial circumstances this season – and he showed he has the talent to do it by winning what was easily the fight of the evening.
The ex-Bulldog was unable to stop the incredibly courageous Frank Amato over six action-packed rounds, with both men so exhausted they were barely able to stand at the final bell.
St George Illawarra great Matt Cooper took on Queensland legend Justin Hodges in the first all-NRL fight on the card and impressed in his first professional fight despite losing on points.
And Reagan Campbell-Gillard became the second Parramatta rower to record a victory on the night when he scored a narrow points victory over Cowboys star and local favorite Jason Taumalolo.
Regan Campbell-Gillard (right) outpointed local hero and Cowboys star Jason Taumalolo to make it two wins in two fights for Parramatta stars on Saturday night
Campbell-Gillard told the commentary panel he was no longer going to box, but Pangai raised his hand for a rematch with Amato before calling out undefeated Australian heavyweight Jackson Murray and suddenly leaving the stage.
Asofa-Solomona did not name his favorite next opponent, but let it slip that he hopes it will be a soccer star.
“I have a few guys, but you can imagine those are guys I’ve had altercations with on the field,” he said.
“I think it’s best we go in there and sort this out. You will soon know.
Hodges – who won his ninth professional fight at the age of 41 – threw down a challenge to another former football superstar who has done well in the ring.
“Sonny Bill Williams – I have one fight left, I might as well make it big,” he laughed.