By Logan Savory
He is ranked No 18 in the world light heavyweight boxing division but Robbie "The Butcher" Berridge is a name New Zealanders haven't embraced just yet. Logan Savory explains how the 29-year-old is preparing, bit by bit, for his assault on world boxing.
He was born in Wanganui but is now based in Auckland, he was a furniture maker but now makes a living as a personal trainer, and like many 29-year-olds he is a proud father.
However, it's the fact he has world title aspirations in the boxing ring and genuinely feels he's a good shot of making that happen which makes this bloke stick out.
Meet Robbie Berridge - the boxer that goes by the ring name "The Butcher", not because of any history in carving up meat but because he has developed a reputation for knocking over his opponents.
To date the light heavyweight has had 24 professional fights winning 22 of them - 18 by knockout - and losing just the one, with the other a draw.
Interestingly, he is probably better known in Australia than in his own country- the biggest fights in his career to date have been in there against Australians Serge Yannick, Joel Casey, Blake Caparello and Kerry Foley. "Every fight in Aussie has been broadcast and over here I've only had a handful. The Australian public seem to be a lot more into it than the Kiwis," he says.
"It's starting to change, there are a lot more pros coming through now (in New Zealand) so there's a lot more shows," he said.
His last fight was the brutal exchange with Daniel MacKinnon in Hamilton in November on the undercard to the David Tua-Alexander Ustinov bout. It was a spectacular fight but grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons.
The pair traded punches before Berridge eventually stopped MacKinnon in round 10.
Shortly after the bout MacKinnon collapsed and was taken to hospital with a brain bleed and put into a coma. It was a worrying moment for the boxing community but McKinnon is recovering and the outlook is much brighter.
The MacKinnon scare hadn't fazed Berridge about what he does in the ring. "It was a good fight, I loved it," he said.
"It's part of boxing, we all sign up for it, we know what it's about."
Berridge didn't take the traditional steps into the boxing game, considering his original sporting love was football.
His other sporting passions are cricket and golf, which show just how far he once was away from a career in the boxing ring.
As a 20-year-old he joined the Northside Boxing Gym in Auckland, mainly to boost his fitness as a footballer.
Eventually he found himself sparring in the ring. Four months after he stepped into the gym he was lining up in his first amateur fight.
While he enjoyed it, his ability didn't show in the early days. Berridge described himself as "not a very good amateur boxer" and it wasn't until he turned professional in 2009 that he really felt at home.
"I was crap at amateur," he said.
"There is an amateur style and a pro style and amateurs have got to change around a bit when they go through to the pro ranks."
Fight by fight, Berridge has inched his way through the boxing ranks to the point at which he's now on the verge of cracking the top 10 in the world in the light heavyweight division.
He has a pretty clear target .
"The ultimate is to win a world title and then defend it," he said.
He ranks at No 18 in the world and last year his talents didn't go unnoticed when New Zealand promoters Duco Events signed him up for six-years.
It sounds like he has hit the big time and there's a lot of glitz and glamour now, but at this stage he's still very much in a battle in and out of the ring.
Despite being ranked in the world's top 20, Berridge still has to work a fulltime job as a personal trainer and fit in his duties as a professional boxer and father of a 19-month-old daughter on top of that.
"I've still got to take classes, train clients and all that jazz. It's not a free ride for me.
"I'm still working and I've got my daughter as well, so it's pretty full on."
While Berridge has done what's required inside the ring he says his manager and trainer Vasco Kovacevic played a big role in getting him to where he is to date by arranging fights and pointing him in the right direction.
"Before I signed with Duco we'd done a lot, we'd won a New Zealand title, the Asia WBC title, we'd been to Australia five times, there was no one supporting us so we've done all the hard yards.
"Now that Duco have got us hopefully they can help push us a bit further."
Berridge's only loss in his 24 bouts was to Australian Blake Caparello in May 2012 in Melbourne when Caparello won in a 10-round bout by unanimous decision.
To Berridge's credit Caparello has a 20-and-zero record and is now ranked in the top 10 in the world.
The other blip on Berridge's record is a draw against another Australian, Kerry Foley, in 2011.
Berridge's team have set about trying to put that right by organising another showdown with Foley in Sydney on February 19.
It will be the main undercard fight to the Garth Wood-Daniel Geale card and for Berridge it is a fight he needs to win if he is to continue his march onto that world title he is after.
"I'm definitely (a better fighter). I've had, what, 10, 12 fights since I last fought (Foley). I'm feeling very good."
Berridge is a realist when it comes to the boxing game knowing that a loss can send him well down the pecking order again.
"It's not like a rugby team where you can lose one week and come back and win the next week.
"With boxing, one fight can stop you." Tags: boxing