By Victor Lee
Photos: Mike Vitali/Fightfem
Fans at a packed ABA stadium in Auckland, New Zealand celebrated in style as the local favorite Robert “The Butcher” Berridge stopped the brave Japanese fighter Shintaro Matsumoto by TKO in round 5 to win the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council light heavyweight title on Friday night. The compact and explosive Berridge dominated from the outset with crisp southpaw combinations both up and downstairs. Matsumoto, a former amateur champion on a three-fight streak, came to win, throwing plenty of his own punches and landing several in combination. However, Berridge, always an offensive powerhouse, demonstrated improved defensive skills, evading the brunt of Matsumoto’s attacks.
After an electric opening round, the atmosphere in the standing-room only stadium reached a fever pitch in round two, when Berridge pinned Matsumoto on the ropes, slicing and dicing with both fists. Noticing that Matsumoto hardly reacted to his clean shots upstairs, Berridge shifted to a body attack in rounds three and four, which clearly took the steam out of Matsumoto, who displayed incredible samurai spirit.
In round five, both fighters traded blows evenly until Berridge landed a scorching left hook to the body, which drove Matsumoto back to the ropes. Sensing Matsumoto was in trouble, Berridge went all-out, delivering a fierce body assault culminating in a left hook to the body followed by a right hook to the head. The last punch was academic, as Matsumoto went down wincing in delayed reaction to the left to the breadbasket. Matsumoto rose to continue fighting, but Berridge immediately went back to the body and dropped him for the second time with another piercing left to the liver. Referee Lance Revel stepped over to save Matsumoto, crumpled sideways on the canvas, from any further punishment, awarding Berridge the TKO victory at 1:40.
Berridge’s manager Brendan Bourke had the following to say: “Robert was very impressive tonight and he put on a perfect display of hit and don’t get hit vs. Matsumoto. Rob really has lifted his game and it’s a credit to his commitment to become a champion and the commitment of his trainers Vasco Kovacevic and Cleve Langdon, who put a huge amount of time and effort into his preparation.”
Berridge, the most exciting fighter to come out of New Zealand since David Tua, improved to 20-1-1 with 16 stoppages and is the new WBC Asian Boxing Council light heavyweight champion. Matsumoto drops to 10-3, (8 KO), his only other stoppage loss to compatriot and former OPBF Super Middleweight Champion Yuzo Kiyota, who will put it all on the line next weekend in Dresden against Robert Steiglitz for the WBO Super Middleweight Title.
On the undercard, fast-rising, slick punching prospect Damien Hooper stopped Viliami Toafi at 2:47 of round one. Scheduled to fight again on August 8, Hooper rises to 3-0, (3 KO). Toafi drops to 0-2.
Promoter: LilVale Promotions.
Venue: ABA Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand.
Date: July 5, 2013.