Tevita Pangai Junior showed off his boxing credentials in the best fight of the night, but footy legend Ben Hannant’s stunning beating by NRL star Junior Paulo provided the biggest controversy during a wild night of boxing in Townsville on Saturday.
The Battle on the Reef promotion saw nine past and present footy stars get into 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 worrying sight of the night when a right hand from Parramatta Eels enforcer left him seeing stars 30 seconds into the first round of their bout – but the referee failed to end the fight.
Hannant was clearly glassy-eyed and could barely get to his feet, but the official failed to wave the fight off to save him from further punishment.
Ben Hannant (left) took huge and unnecessary punishment from Junior Paulo (centre) after the referee failed to stop the fight when he was so badly hurt he could barely stand
The former Cowboys star’s corner was also too late to throw in the towel, leaving their fighter at risk of serious injury as Paulo kept smashing him with huge punches.
Experienced boxing commentator Andy Raymond was left furious when the ref allowed Hannant to fight on.
‘Somebody stop this! He struggled to get to his feet and now he’s going to get hurt if they allow this to continue,’ he said on Stan Sport’s coverage of the fight.
‘There’s nothing worse than a brave corner or a referee who cannot control what’s happening.
‘These aren’t professional boxers … these are rugby league guys having a crack in the boxing ring, and that is crap.’
Australian WBA Oceania middleweight champion Michael Zerafa was also scathing of the decision to let the bout go on.
Hannant’s corner eventually threw in the towel (pictured) but the bout should have been stopped as soon as he was dropped 30 seconds into the first round
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (right) produced the punch of the night when he knocked Jarrod Wallace (left) down 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 ex-Bulldogs NRL star won on points in a thrilling clash that was easily the best fight on the card
‘That was a poor decision by the referee, he was out on his feet and he couldn’t even walk straight,’ he said in commentary.
‘This is why some fighters get serious and have permanent injuries, because of decisions like that.’
Another decision – this time from a judge – infuriated fans and left experts dumbstruck at the end of the night’s final fight.
Paulo Aokuso put on a masterful display of boxing to clearly beat Argentina’s Gabriel Omar Diaz, was never in with a chance during their 10-round bout.
However, boos rang out from the crowd and Aokuso was visibly shocked when one of the judges scored the fight a 95-95 draw.
Some fans were heard yelling, ‘What fight were you watching?’ when the score was read out and a mystified Zerafa added, ‘I thought he [Aokuso] won nearly every round.’
Boos and cries of ‘What fight were you watching?’ rang out when one judge disgraced himself by calling the bout between Paolo Akuso (right) and Gabriel Omar Diaz a draw – despite Akuso thoroughly dominating his opponent, who barely won a round
Dragons great Matt Cooper (right) lost to Broncos legend Justin Hodges on points but did himself proud 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 after their bout began.
Wallace somehow beat the count and made it into 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 him bleeding badly from the nose.
Tevita Pangai Junior wants to forge a career in boxing after quitting the NRL in controversial circumstances this season – and he showed he has the talent to do just that as he won what was easily the fight of the night.
The ex-Bulldog couldn’t stop the incredibly gutsy Frank Amato over six action-packed rounds, with both men left 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 bout on the card and impressed in his first pro fight despite losing on points.
And Reagan Campbell-Gillard became the second Parramatta front-rower to record a win on the night when he scored a narrow points win over Cowboys star and local favourite Jason Taumalolo.
Regan Campbell-Gillard (right) outpointed local hero and Cowboys star Jason Taumalolo to make it two wins from two fights for Parramatta stars on Saturday night
Campbell-Gillard told the commentary panel he wasn’t going to box again, but Pangai put his hand up for a rematch with Amato before calling out undefeated Aussie heavyweight Jackson Murray and suddenly walking off the set.
Asofa-Solomona wouldn’t name his preferred next opponent, but let slip that he hopes it’ll be a footy star.
‘I’ve got a couple guys, but you can imagine it’s guys I’ve had altercations with on the field,’ he said.
‘I think it’s best we get in there and settle it. You’ll find out soon.’
Hodges – who won his ninth pro fight at the age of 41 – issued a challenge to another ex-footy superstar who has done well in the ring.
‘Sonny Bill Williams – I’ve got one fight left, I might as well make it big,’ he laughed.