LAST Saturday at the Principality stadium on the Joshua-Parker undercard I witnessed possibly the most astonishing round of boxing I’ve ever seen or ever will see.
It’s a bold claim but one I’m comfortable making because the sixth stanza between Mose Auimatagi Jnr and Morgan Jones was the perfect illustration of why boxing is the most thrilling sport in the world.
I first saw Mose Auimatagi’s name (pronounced “Moss-ee Aw-ee-ma-tan-gee”) when Matchroom had sent me an initial card for Joshua vs Parker a good few weeks beforehand. It wasn’t a name I recognised but given that it was on the left-hand side of the bill with opponent Morgan Jones, a Welshman, on the right, I assumed he must be with Team Parker or Duco Events. Some more digging and I discovered he was a 9-1-2 super-middleweight from Auckland, champion of New Zealand, and trained by Joseph Parker’s original mentor Grant Arkell at the Papatotoe Boxing Club. Jones I knew plenty about as I’d seen him at the 02 the previous summer on the Buglioni vs Summers undercard. A good fighter, 12-0, trained by Lee Beard, my first impressions were that it should be a decent tussle but that Jones would likely have too much for someone who hadn’t boxed for nearly a year and obviously struggled to get meaningful fights.
Fast forward to fight week and I went to find Mose at the open workout, before we got started, as I was MCing and wanted to check on how to pronounce his name. I chatted with him and Grant and they were the kind of people you meet all the time in boxing; friendly, genuine and instantly likeable. Mose and Morgan were first up at the workout, in front of a sizeable crowd, and it was obvious that Jones was more comfortable with his surroundings; when I was announcing him out of the ring after he’d finished he sidled up to me, kind of photo bombing me into interviewing him, something we didn’t really have time for. I liked his style, it takes balls to do something like that.
And when I arrived at the next day’s undercard press conference, in the august setting of Cardiff’s City Hall, Morgan was the first person I saw. Partner Amy and young son Omari were with him and we talked for a while. I asked Amy what it was like watching from ringside and she said that it was OK because her man never got hit. She knew that would change of course, not that she said that, she didn’t need to, and there was certainly no need to point it out; boxing’s a sport and subject matter where there are many things that are best left unsaid. The three of them were a tight family unit, in it together and supporting each other. It wasn’t easy because having moved trainer from Tony Borg to Lee Beard last year, Morgan would be away during the week and only home at weekends when he was in camp, but they wanted to give his career every chance and that meant making sacrifices.
I thanked them for their time, wished them the best of luck and then immediately bumped into Mose who was practically standing next to us. Matt Macklin wandered over at which point our overseas fighter became properly star-struck. I took a picture of the two of them and it was heart-warming to see someone so fresh and enthusiastic, if not a little overawed, by what he was a part of. When they sat down for the press conference neither said an awful lot, with Auimatagi grinning when Eddie Hearn understandably pronounced his name incorrectly. I assured him afterwards that I’d make sure that the MC and myself and Matt on commentary would get it right. In a way though it summed up the position he was in. He was a long way from home, on the other side of the world, where nobody knew him or even how to say his name. He knew Parker but he wasn’t part of the team; he, Grant, manager Andrew Higgins (twin brother of David) and his Dad, who was also with him, were left to their own devices and did their own thing.
The weigh-in passed off without incident for either and then it was fight night. Theirs was the very first fight and part of our Facebook coverage with the pair of them emerging at about five past five, into a decidedly chilly and deserted, but still magnificent Principality Stadium. Mose looked very tense and when the bell went he never really got going. Jones was comfortably the better fighter and landed with regularity, although, crucially for Auimatagi, without any great power, and put the first five rounds in his pocket. As the fight progressed the Welshman opened up more and more, bouncing the New Zealander’s head around at time. Mose kept coming, showing plenty of courage, but when Morgan knocked him down with a long right hand near the start of the sixth and final round the end seemed nigh.
And it was. But not an end that anyone would have predicted. As Jones closed in Auimatagi landed a solid right to the side of the head, around about the ear and his opponent’s legs went. From absolutely nowhere, from being in total and utter control, Jones was now reeling, senses scrambled and desperately trying to survive. He managed to stay on his feet but further punches landed causing him to turn his back and list into the ropes, at which point referee Martin Williams correctly stopped the fight with just eight seconds remaining. It was incredible, me and Matt could hardly believe our eyes as Mose celebrated wildly with his team whilst Morgan, dazed and confused, was left wondering what on earth had just happened to him. Amy’s words popped into my head. The day when she would have to endure the misery of watching her man get hit and hurt was always coming but it certainly hadn’t looked like March 31 2018 was going to be that day. I looked around ringside but couldn’t see her. Maybe fate had intervened and spared her what would have been a very painful spectacle.
Matt and myself had commentated on Burton vs Buglioni, which was another phenomenal late turnaround, but this was even more extreme. It was utterly bewildering, bizarre even, but in boxing, one punch can change everything. It’s one of many sayings attached to the sport that you frequently hear bandied around but, like many of the others, its familiarity doesn’t take the power out of it. I was busy for the rest of the night so didn’t get a chance to see either fighter afterwards, although I did look for them both at the very end. I’ll see Jones again, I’m sure of that; he’s a good boxer, has great people around him and should recover. He’s in for a painful few weeks though of torturing himself with trying to work out how defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. I may well never see Auimatagi again, he boxes at the opposite end of the earth but I shall follow his career with great interest and I wish him the very best for the future. In a few days’ time, maybe even at this very minute, he’ll be back at his day job, walking the aisles at Fisher and Paykel, a kitchen and laundry appliances store in Auckland, and he’ll have one hell of a story to tell.
Whatever happens in the rest of his life Mose Auimatagi Jnr will always have Cardiff. And so will I. I’ll never forget that sixth round as long as I live.
Watch the fight here: