They are ready to rumble – and they will be ready to breathe a sigh of relief when it is all done.
Driving force Sally-Ann Donnelly and trainer Wayne Fisher-Hewitt cannot wait for the opening bell to sound at the Milligans Portside Punch tomorrow night.
The charity boxing event, a sequel to the wildly successful 2014 fight night that raised $120,000 for the North Otago Hospice Hub, features 10 bouts and 20 keen Waitakians who have immersed themselves in fitness and boxing training for three months.
Five hundred guests will enjoy the boxing action, a three-course meal, entertainment and an auction at the former Te Pari building in Humber St.
Mrs Donnelly, the queen of hospitality, is confident all the work going in behind the scenes will pay off, and it will be a night to remember for fighters and fans.
“It’s really cool to have the opportunity to get dressed up and go out to something like this,” she said.
“It’s intense to watch the boxing, especially when it’s friends and family in the ring, and my utter admiration goes to the boxers. They’re putting their bodies and pride on the line in the name of charity.”
Mrs Donnelly paid tribute to Mr Fisher-Hewitt, who led the training team, and Jae Omnet and the other fitness trainers.
Mr Fisher-Hewitt has been absorbed in the challenge of preparing and matching the boxers, and he is eager to see his fighters get in the ring.
“I just really want to see them enjoy themselves, because they’ve all gone out of their comfort zone during this process,” he said.
“It’s a huge personal milestone for these people. They’ve committed to this, and I think they’ve learned a lot about themselves, and their own mental strength, and how they have to think inside the boxing ring.
“It’s not about putting gloves on and hitting. It’s technique – the art of boxing – and none of them quite appreciated how deep that goes.”
Mr Fisher-Hewitt was happy to identify the one fight he was looking forward to above all others.
The main event on the card is the heavyweight bout between Dylan Winter and Jason Millns, who were due to fight in 2014 before the former got injured.
“I’d hate to stand in front of any one of those jabs they throw. They’re two big boys with a lot of power.
“They were a little bit further ahead than the others, because of all the training they did last time, and it should be one hell of a fight.”
It had been gut-wrenching to have to lose original contenders Grant Rhodes, Mark Rawson, Ricky Whyte and Simon Vernon through a combination of injury and an inability to match weights, Mr Fisher-Hewitt said.
“It was horrendous. It’s the worst part of doing something like this. I enjoy every other part of it, but it’s not easy when you have to exclude people.”
Fighters have their weigh-in and final medical check tonight.
Organisers hope the Portside Punch will raise over $100,000. Half the proceeds will be donated to the Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit, and the other half will be split locally between the Cancer Society and hospice.