Experience a little bit of good fortune has helped ‘The Iron Rhino’ Michael Kirby take out the inaugural Last Man Standing tournament and collect $20 000 prize money.
The 8 man elimination tournament kicked off with New Zealander Tafa Misipati taking on Nigerian native Kingsley Enedeghe. After 3 close rounds of action the judges scored the fight 29-28, 29-29 and 29-29, ruling a majority draw and a deciding round to be fought.
With both men well and truly exhausted, the 4th round was fought at a sluggish pace. In the end it was Misipati who managed to get the nod with a final round score of 10-9 and advance to the semi finals.
The next quarter final match saw the competitions two most experienced and accomplished fighters, Michael Kirby and Nathan Briggs up against each other. Many suggested this could have possibly been the final had they not been put in against each other in the first round.
Having fought two times previous, each having a win, this was an interesting decider. Briggs in the opening round put Kirby on the canvas. Shortly after the knockdown, Briggs dropped to his knee clutching at an injured elbow.
He bravely continued, but after another grimace from the elbow pain in round two, referee Tony Marretta called a stop to the contest. The TKO victory would see Kirby advance and due to face Misipati.
Willie Nasio versus Royce Sio was next, in a furious bout lasting only 37 seconds. Nasio came out and blasted Sio with vicious punches, scoring two knockdowns before referee Dave Hedgcock had seen enough.
The last of the quarter final matches was 150kg powerhouse Tai Tuivasa versus Brett Smith. Tuivasa showed exceptional speed and ability for his size and had Smith hurt in the first round, prompting referee to give a standing 8 count.
A blatant head butt towards the end of round 1 would see Smith deducted a point. When fighters readied themselves for round 2, referee called a halt to proceedings and explained he had disqualified Smith. Tuivasa advanced and scheduled to take on Nasio.
Semi final one, an exhausted Tafa Misipati entered against former state, national and OPBF titlist Michael Kirby. Kirby, much more experienced and much fresher made easy work of the New Zealand born slugger, putting him on the deck in the opening round before Tony Marretta stopped the match.
After both men’s previous performances, the second semi final between Willie Nasio and Tai Tuivasa was anticipated to be a thrilling matchup. It lived up to the hype, while it lasted.
Both came out throwing thunderous punches in exciting exchanges, but it was Tuivasa who landed on Nasio in the first round and sent him crashing down. Nasio would answer the count, but the referee stopped the bout, prematurely in the eyes of some, especially Nasio’s corner who disputed it.
The TKO victory sent Tuivasa to the final to face Michael Kirby.
To give the finalists a break before they had to compete, Light Welterweights Lenny Zappavigna (30-2, 20KOs) and Japan’s Shuhei Tsuchiya (15-2, 13KOs) were scheduled for a 12 round bout with the WBO Oriental belt up for grabs.
The smaller men stole the show from the moment they entered the ring, putting on an absolute war for the fans in what is already a candidate for fight of the year.
Despite Tsuchiya having 13 KOs from 15 victories, Zappavigna, the former IBO champion started the bout looking the much stronger of the pair. Zappavigna found a home for his crushing lefts to the body, landing repeatedly on his opponent.
In the fourth round, Zappavigna landed a left hook that sent Tsuchiya crashing to the canvas. The Japanese fighter was able to answer the count and continue.
Continuing to walk forward with back and forth attacks, both men showed extreme toughness throughout the fight which had spectators elated.
With both cut and bloodied badly, they entered the tenth round. Zappavigna floored Tsuchiya, but the tough Japanese got to his feet once more. After another Zappavigna combination landed, Tsuchiya’s corner appropriately threw in the towel.
The tenth round TKO victory improves the 26 year old Zappavigna to 31-2, 21KOs.
With the audience pumped from the previous war, it was time for the Heavyweight finalist to take part in their third bout for the night.
It was age and experience with 38 year old Kirby, against the size, strength and youth of 21 year old Tuivasa.
The 150kg Tuivasa had Kirby in trouble in the second round, putting him on the canvas. Kirby showed why they call him the ‘Iron Rhino’ and rose to his feet to fight on. The third would see a vital point deduction from Tuivasa for continuous holding.
After the three rounds, judges scored the bout 28-27, 28-28 and 27-28. It was a draw and an extra round would decide the winner in a script perfect final.
Kirby was the busier fighter in the fourth round with his walk forward attack and this gave him the decision and $20 000 prize money. Tuivasa received $10 000 for second place.
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