Whatever happens Reece Papuni's 10th and final boxing nationals will be remembered for one of the best punches of his career.
Possibly the only one who will not remember the Christchurch fighter's short right hook fondly is Waikato's Tyson Whalley, who hit the canvas in the third round of their light heavyweight bout in Wellington yesterday.
Up to that point the Australian-based Whalley was stamping his mark on the tournament in what onlookers say was one of the most impressive boxing displays in recent memory.
"He boxed very well," Papuni said. "He'd definitely done his homework on me. He kept his distance, boxed nicely, but didn't quite do the job I guess.
"I've never been in that position. I was trying to load up most of the night and they weren't coming off. He was giving me a good boxing test, that's for sure, but he let his guard down for just a second."
In that second, Papuni's tilt at a third straight light heavyweight crown got its lifeline.
"I try to stay calm in those situations. It's boxing and anything can happen either way. I pulled off the shot and I'm just happy it landed that way and had that effect.
"I came off the ropes and let him come in and let off a short right hook and got him on the sweet spot."
The knockout blow came with 10 seconds left in the final round, Whalley up 17-12 on the judges' cards, but Commonwealth Games representative Papuni had some encouraging words for his beaten opponent.
"He [Whalley] came over from Perth with his Aussie coach and he's learned a lot confidence wise since he's been over there. He's definitely big potential for the future. He's only a young fella."
It was particularly pleasing for Papuni, 23, who revealed he's likely to turn pro after the nationals.
"To finish it with a New Zealand title would be pretty sweet. It's been a long time in the amateur game. I'm only young in amateur, but I've been doing it a long time and you end up being a veteran," Papuni said.
"That's the life goal, but we'll confirm the decision after the tournament and take it from there."
The New Zealand National Championships finish with the finals at the Lower Hutt Town Hall tonight with juniors from 1pm and the men's elite from 6pm.
- The Dominion Post