David Nyika has announced himself on the world stage with a stunning second-round knockout of fellow Kiwi Titi Motusaga in Melbourne today.
Fighting on the undercard of the Devin Haney v George Kambosos Jr world lightweight title fight main event, New Zealand cruiserweight Nyika - with blood streaming from his right cheek after a head clash - stopped Motusaga with a perfect one-two combination, his right hand stunning his opponent, who crashed to the floor in alarming fashion.
Motusaga, who recovered after a brief medical assessment and was up and walking afterwards, was predicted to give Nyika the sternest test of his professional career.
But Nyika, a double Commonwealth Games gold medallist, showed the benefits of his partnership with renowned Australian coach Noel Thornberry on the outskirts of Brisbane.
The 27-year-old looked compact and extremely powerful during his short time in the ring.
The finishing combination was clearly one Nyika had been working on – he tried it as early as the first round. But apart from the devastating finish, Nyika’s far tighter defence was perhaps the most impressive part of his performance.
Pundits have previously drawn attention to his occasionally loose style but today he was tight defensively and relatively cautious.
He was also very quick to make the most of his superior reach and height against Motusaga, 31.
It was a devastating performance which may resonate with viewers in the United States tuning in ahead of the main event. In New Zealand the event is screening exclusively on TVNZ1.
It was an excellent performance from Nyika but the wide and deep cut on his cheek may dictate when he fights next.
It wasn’t such good news for Kiwi heavyweight Hemi Ahio, who suffered the first defeat of his professional career against Australian Faiga Opelu.
Ahio, who goes to 19-1, appeared flat and almost disinterested throughout the fight which was conducted exclusively at close quarters and which was stopped by the referee in the fourth round.
Ahio, on the ropes and appearing to be stunned by Opelu’s final onslaught, was dismayed by the referee’s decision which may have, on balance, come slightly early, but a case could easily be made for it as Ahio appeared increasingly sluggish in response to the punishment he was receiving.
The 32-year-old Ahio, hoping to press his claims for bigger-money fights on the world stage, will now have to reassess. He was poor defensively, in particular.
Another Kiwi on the card, middleweight Marcus Heywood, impressed with his bravery and ambition against undefeated American Lorenzo Simpson in losing by unanimous decision.
Heywood, wanting to rough up and pressurise an opponent with a spectacular and long amateur record, did just that.
He scored freely to the body but ultimately Simpson, a southpaw, showed his class via his speed and timing and dropped Heywood twice – although the first knockdown was heavily disputed by Heywood’s corner.
Heywood appeared hurt in the sixth and final round but did well to hold on and hear the final bell.