Battle on the Reef boxing LIVE: All the updates as NRL stars punch on at footy fight night


Follow Daily Mail Australia’s live blog for all the updates from the Battle on the Reef footy fight night. 

‘That is crap’: Angry Andy Raymond slams the ref and Hannant’s corner

Experienced boxing commentator Andy Raymond was left furious when the ref allowed Hannant to fight on.

‘There’s nothing worse than a brave corner or a referee who cannot control what’s happening,’ he said.

‘These aren’t professional boxers … these are rugby league guys having a crack in the boxing ring, and that is crap.’

Michael Zerafa lashes out at the ref

The middleweight star says that bout should’ve been stopped when Paulo landed that first, immense right hand – and he’s bang on the money.

Furthermore, if the ref couldn’t see that the fight had to be waved off, Hannant’s corner should have. He proved against Gallen that he’s got no quit in him, and a corner’s job is to protect their fighter from himself in situations like that.

Hannant was in Disneyland and when he watches that back he’ll be thankful he didn’t get seriously hurt before his corner saw sense.

That should’ve been stopped earlier

Hannant was in all sorts after that first right landed and the fight should’ve been stopped then and there. He was too game for his own good and Paulo’s incredible power could’ve resulted in an ugly end to that fight.

The ref also erred by ruling a knockdown when Hannant was clearly pushed. Not a great fight for the official.

Sonny Bill Williams said Paulo can make it as a boxer and he has hit the nail on the head. It’s not just that staggering power, either – he had great form and composure, set that right hand up behind his jab and showed controlled aggression. Fight fans will be keen to see more of him.

Junior Paulo v Ben Hannant: Round one – Paulo by TKO after a devastating punch!

Paulo steams in behind his jab, wasting no time – and pulverises Hannant with a right hook!

He just beats the count and gamely continues but that was a titanic shot, followed by another huge right.

Hannant goes down again and it’s called a knockdown, but he was pushed to the ground.

Paulo is landing that right at will – and Hannant’s corner, thankfully, throws in the towel.

Junior Paulo v Ben Hannant: Ring walks

Hannant enters wearing maroon trunks and a T-shirt with his Polar Bear nickname emblazoned on the front.

Paulo emerges in a black tee bearing the name of the gym he trains in – and he looks in top shape.

Up next: Junior Paulo v Ben Hannant

Both Michael Zerafa and James Graham are tipping Paulo to take this one, and anyone who saw his effort against Paul Gallen would have to agree.

However, Hannant showed huge heart in his loss to Gallen last year, going the distance despite wearing some huge punches and suffering two broken ribs.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona on what to expect vs Jarrod Wallace

NAS is all business as he says he’s going to fight his way instead of tailoring what he’s doing to fit in with Wallace’s abilities, which he has already displayed in his first and only professional fight back in December 2019.

Commentator Michael Zerafa can’t wait for the bout and has some very high praise for the Storm forward.

‘I’ve never seen someone thatbig counter an move as well as he does,’ the middleweight says.

Hodges proves his daughter wrong

The ex-Bronco revealed his daughter thought he was going to get knocked out tonight.

He’s then asked if he’d go the knuckle with Nelson Asofa-Solomona – and the way he said ‘whoa!’ shows that fight won’t be happening anytime soon.

Justin Hodges calls out Sonny Bill

It’s been five or six weeks since Justin Hodges’ last lager and you can see him making a beeline for the esky back in the dressing room after his first comment in his post-fight interview: ‘I feel good. I can finally have a beer now!’

Asked if he’ll climb through the ropes again, he quips, ‘The old boy might have one left in him, you never know.’

He then calls out Sonny Bill Williams: ‘I’ve got one fight left, I might as well make it big.’

Be careful what you wish for, Justin – that is one hell of a mountain to climb.

Every fight tonight is pretty much being held in a phone booth

It’s an old boxing adage but in this case it’s as close to true as it possibly can be, as the fighters will all be competing in the smallest ring allowed under pro boxing regulations.

Unanimous points win to Hodges

Two judges gave him every round, one gave a single round to Cooper. Experience gave Hodges the edge there but the former Dragons centre acquitted himself well.

Justin Hodges v Matt Cooper

Both men unscathed as they await the decision

Cooper has done very well for a debutant – he looked pretty composed in there, even when he got tagged, and was game. Decision on the way…

Justin Hodges vs Matt Cooper: Round three

Both men share a hug as the last round gets underway. Cooper charges in from the outset but isn’t landing anything clean.

Hodges lands a right uppercut on the inside but it doesn’t hurt his opponent. A left hook finds his jaw, though.

Another good jab from Hodges, then a glancing right, and another jab.

Justin Hodges vs Matt Cooper: Round two

Hodges’ corner told him he can’t miss with his jab and want him to throw straight shots.

Both fighters are cagey to start the second then a flurry from both sees Cooper cop a couple of solid shots. His right hand is way too slow to cause Hodges any problems.

Good stiff jab from Cooper but he takes a left on the inside as he rushes in. Slow pace from both men with neither throwing combinations.

Justin Hodges vs Matt Cooper: Round one

Respectful touch of the gloves and we’re off. Cooper shows a fair bit of movement and feints to try to set up his punches while Hodges waits patiently and stalks him around the ring.

Cooper eats a jab and laughs it off but then rushes in with both hands down.

Hodges scores with a jab to the body and just misses with an uppercut. Cooper is sticking his tongue out at him, lands a decent right but he’s not loading up on his shots. He’s warned for hitting Hodges on the back of the head.

Close round there but we’ll go 10-9 Hodges.

Justin Hodges vs Matt Cooper: We’re moments away from round one

Cooper cuts a confident figure on his ring walk while Hodges walks out with his son and daughter. The former Dragons back isn’t showing any signs of nerves as he’s announced to the crowd.

Justin Hodges vs Matt Cooper: James Graham makes his prediction

The British Bulldogs great sees Hodges coming out on top here – and given the way he’s improved over the course of his boxing career, it’s hard to argue. But Cooper is an X-factor here and he looks to be in good shape.

Next up: Justin Hodges vs Matt Cooper

Now we come to the first of the footy clashes, and it’s a State of Origin bout featuring Hodges, who has a 5-3 pro record featuring two losses to Paul Gallen, one of which was tinged with controversy.

The Maroons great had plenty to say in the lead-up to the bout with NSW star Cooper, who is making his pro debut but has trained for many years at Wollongong’s Freestyle MMA gym alongside UFC star Alex Volkanovski.

‘I’m an 80kg lightweight in a heavyweight body’

Pangai gets a laugh out of the crowd with his post-fight interview – then professes his love for brother Tevita, saying, ‘I got him from the womb to the tomb, brother!’

Let’s hope the former Bulldogs enforcer’s bout features a bit more action than the second stoush on the card.

Jermaine Pangai wins by TKO

Dawadawa’s team have ended that after just one round. Another disappointing end as the Fijian couldn’t respond to the bell for the second round.

Yes, he took some punishment as that first round went on, left with blood streaming from his nose, but it didn’t appear to be the sort of beating that would leave a pro unable to come out for the second stanza.

Jermaine Pangai v Nepote Dawadawa

Jermaine Pangai vs Nepote Dawadawa: Round one

Pangai might be the debutant but he looks the more comfortable of the two early on as they feel each other out. It’s a cautious start but he gets the better of the first exchange.

Dawadawa looks out of his depth and very reluctant to engage – and when he does he throws big, winging shots without looking at his opponent.

The Fijian bails Pangai up on the ropes but does little damage. Pangai answers with some uppercuts and they’re leaving a mark.

Good footwork from Pangai puts his man in the corner. His left uppercut is the money punch here – it’s landing with regularity.

Next up: Jermaine Pangai vs Nepote Dawadawa

Dawadawa is a 34-year-old Fijian with two wins to his name – one by knockout – and six losses, all of which came via KO.

Pangai is making his professional debut – but Aussie heavyweight Demsey McKean, who’s on the Stan commentary panel with Michael Zerafa tonight, is tipping him to win by stoppage.

Dawadawa is giving away more than 20kg to his opponent, who looks in good shape.

‘I was looking for a bit more resistance’

That’s from Austin Aokuso in his post-fight interview, and he’s speaking for every fan who just saw that lopsided bout. The victor also gave a shout-out to his newborn son, who is just three weeks old.

Talk about a mismatch

Naliva Jr was covering up almost straight away after eating a couple of jabs, turned his back on Aukuso and refused to get up after being hit with a succession of shots that weren’t that heavy – and none of them struck him cleanly to the face.

Respect to him for getting in the ring in the first place, but he was cannon fodder for Aukuso there. Fans wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that was Naliva Jr’s first pro fight, not his 14th.

1 - Austin Aokuso v Filimoni Naliva Jr

Ding ding! We’re underway – and it’s a first-round knockout to Aukuso!

Aokuso is all over his opponent from the outset before slipping over – and it’s correctly not ruled a knockdown.

Naliva Jr is badly out of his depth and can’t get up after being hit with a punch that didn’t look like it did much damage.

Just moments away now…

Paulo Aokuso’s brother Austin has just entered the ring and we’re set for our first bout, in the cruiserweight division.

How boxing helped Jermaine Pangai turn his life around

Tevita Pangai Jr’s little brother was an out-of-shape 15-year-old with stacks of untapped potential before he pulled on the gloves.

“He was 150 kilos in Canberra, living with my parents playing Fortnite and eating ice cream and I said ‘You’re coming up with me to Brisbane’,” Tevita (pictured below) told Channel Nine.

“And the plan wasn’t to go and box, it was just to come get healthy. We use boxing as a way to get healthy and then we both fell in love with the sport.

“Boxing saved our lives in a way and we want to do something we love every day.”

Your first fighters tonight

Filimoni Naliva Jr enters his cruiserweight bout against Austin Aokuso with a record of seven wins (five by knockout) and six losses, with five of those defeats coming by way of KO. The 30-year-old hails from Fiji.

Aokuso, 25, is a southpaw who remains undefeated after five wins, with two of those bouts finishing inside the distance.

How disaster struck for Paulo Aokuso after ‘worst preparation we could ever ask for’

Former Olympian Aokuso missed weight for his fight by a staggering 2.3kg, meaning no matter what the result of his fight with Gabriel Omar Diaz is, the Argentinian will win the IBO Intercontinental light heavyweight title.

Aokuso’s trainer Lincoln Hudson suffered a heart attack in the lead-up to the fight, leading his manager Fidel Tukel to say, ‘I’ve been in 300 professional fight corners over the years and this is by far the worst prep I have seen.’

Here’s how the shocking mistake unfolded – and how Aokuso reacted to the shattering news.

Sonny Bill’s high praise for Junior Paulo’s boxing ability

You might remember Paulo giving Paul Gallen all sorts of trouble when they fought in December 2016. He is sure to prove a huge test for Ben Hannant tonight – and SBW has revealed why he thinks the Eels prop can carve out a career in the ring.

Who’s fighting who – and when

As with all boxing cards, expect some changes from the below as fights finish early. Given the inexperience of some of the footy players – and the extreme power they can throw with – it’s highly doubtful these bouts will all go the distance.

6.45pm – Austin Aokuso vs Filimoni Naliva Jr (cruiserweight)

7.20pm – Jermaine Pangai vs Nepote Dawadawa (heavyweight)

7.45pm – Justin Hodges vs Matt Cooper (heavyweight)

8.10pm – Junior Paulo vs Ben Hannant (heavyweight)

8.30pm – Nelson Asofa-Solomona vs Jarrod Wallace (heavyweight)

8.55pm – Tevita Pangai Junior vs Frank Amato (heavyweight)

9.30pm – Jason Taumalolo vs Reagan Campbell-Gillard (heavyweight)

10pm – Paulo Aokuso vs Gabriel Omar Diaz (IBO Intercontinental Light-Heavyweight title)

Storm giant Nelson Asofa-Solomona rates his teammates’ boxing ability

Anyone who’s seen Asofa-Solomona on the pads knows Jarrod Wallace will have his hands full when they fight tonight. Earlier this week he told Daily Mail Australia that four of his teammates could cut it in the ring…

G’day and welcome

We’re just under an hour away from the action kicking off in Townsville and Daily Mail Australia will have you covered for all the latest updates as footy stars past and present clash in the ring before Paulo Aukuso takes on Gabriel Omar Diaz in the main event.

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