Issac Hardman won a fight, took off his shorts and then called out almost all of Australia’s middleweight division on a night where Nikita Tszyu … well, he promised to “pop the cherry” of Jack Brubaker.
All this too, after a fighter no less than Billy Dib is hailing a future world champion backflipped off the ring ropes after taking his undefeated tear to six straight wins.
At the top of what proved an eclectic No Limit fight card, Hardman earned a sixth round TKO against Japanese middleweight Kazuki Kyohara at the Sydney Entertainment Quarter.
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While the Aussie was full of praise for his international rival’s toughness afterwards – asking “what’s he made of, Japanese steel” – it was still a resounding return to form for the fighter who dropped two of his past three to Michael Zerafa and Rohan Murdock.
The convincing stoppage, which left Kyohara increasingly bloodied as the rounds piled up, came in front of a crowd boasting plenty of sporting talent – including South Sydney’s Latrell Mitchell, UFC heavyweight Tai Tuivasa, and Aussie fighters Liam Wilson, Nikita Tszyu and Jack Brubaker.
Before the main event, Tszyu and Brubaker also had a unique ‘Face Off’ interview inside the ring, and seated on stools, to promote their upcoming August pay-Per-View headliner.
Hosted by Main Event’s Ben Damon, and boasting several fun exchanges, the highlight was Tszyu responding to a statement from his rival that he had never been hurt in the ring.
“He says he’s never been hurt,” Tszyu replied, “so I want to be the first to hurt him.
“I want to pop his virginity.”
Tszyu also promised to finish Brubaker faster than his older brother Tim had when the pair squared off in a hyped 2019 all-Australian showdown.
“Tim beat him in four rounds,” Nikita said. “The goal is to beat him faster.”
Tszyu and Brubaker face off in the ring! | 07:36
But as for the fights?
On the undercard, Sydney super welterweight Mounir Fathi — who is trained by former world champion Dib — earned a breakout win in his Fox Sports debut, while in the co-main super middleweight Tej Singh scored his second straight win over Victoria’s Blake Wells.
But still the star of the show was Hardman, who has emerged the undisputed winner of No Limit’s three big Wednesday shows over the past month.
Better, he now wants the Rose brothers to start phoning the best middleweights in the country to face him later this year somewhere on a blockbuster Tszyu card.
Asked afterwards about the crazy opening exchanges, where Kyohara continually charged in seemingly looking to end it in the first, Hardman laughed: “It was wild.
“It was like the start of a sumo fight, he just came straight ahead.
“I knew he would run in like a Kamikaze bomber but I didn’t think it would happen like that.
“So I’m glad I didn’t get wild with him.
“Just got my bearings, good my range and went to work.
“Beforehand I said I wasn’t going to box but on the way out every said I boxed beautifully so … I can box with the best of ‘em but I just have to stay in their face like I did tonight.
“I ain’t f…ing dancing around like Caleb Plant.”
Surprised he didn’t go down when, eventually, you hit him with that big right late in the first round?
“F… yeah,” he continued, grinning and dressed in only his underwear and fight boots.
“I keep saying there is something in the water in Caboolture with me and Liam Wilson but there is something in the water in Mt Fuji.
“That bloke is made of something.
“(At the start) he threw seventy-two-and-a-half kilos into every shot he threw. And they had a leverage on them, a couple wrapped around the back of my head.
“They were wonky shots you don’t see coming.
“I hadn’t seen that style before even in the gym.”
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And as for taking his pants off?
“That was for my baby girl Evander,” he said, pointing to the name stitched large onto those trunks now held in his hand.
“And Ben Damon don’t like me taking the f…ing mic and talking about my sponsors. So this saves time (he says, pointing to the logos) … I’m efficient.”
The night also proved a big one for undefeated Fathi, who – trained by former world champion Billy Dib – has now started his career with six straight wins.
Fighting first up, Fathi looked outstanding as he dropped his Auckland Rival Jerome Pascua four times in the opening two rounds before referee Les Fear waved it off.
Afterwards, Dib suggested his charge was readying to take on some of the biggest names on the local scene – including Wade Ryan, Troy O’Meley and Jack Brubaker.
“I told you guys, this kid is deadly,” Dib said. “And now we’re coming … I guarantee he’s going to become a world champion.”
In the first round, Fathi felled Pascua, first, with a big right hand to the head, and then soon after with a body shot. Then in the second, it was consecutive body shots which again dropped the Kiwi and saw the fight called off.
Elsewhere on the undercard, debuting light heavyweight Ralph Etienne scored an impressive third round TKO win over Riley Powers.
Etienne appeared to have finished the fight at the end of the first round, when he dropped the towering 6’ 5’’ Powers with two consecutive right hands that came right on the bell.
The referee, however, appeared to start the count before then questioning if the punch had actually come after the bell – with Powers eventually allowed to recover in his corner, and fight on through the second.
It was then in the third, while taking more punishment, that the fight was waved off.
FULL FIGHT CARD
Main event: Issac Hardman def Kazuki Kyohara via TKO with 1:28 left in Round 6, Middleweight, 8 rounds
Tej Pratab Singh def Blake Wells via majority decision (79-73 x2, 76-76); Super middleweight, 8 rounds
Ralph Etienne def Riley Powers via TKO 45 secs into Round 3; Light heavyweight, 4 rounds
Mounir Fathi def Jerome Pascua via TKO at end of Round 2; Catchweight (71kg), 4 rounds
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