It may have gone by in a blur but Nelson boxers Ashley Belk and Blake Upton both had very memorable debuts inside the ring last month.
Fighting out of Victory Boxing, the pair both claimed titles in their first competitive bouts.
The South Island Novice Championships saw 58 bouts take place over the two-day competition in Christchurch.
Ashley won the 51kg debut elite title with Blake claiming the 81kg debut male category.
Both boxers say they were a barrel of nerves before stepping between the ropes.
“I knew I’d be nervous, but that was a whole other level,” Ashley says.
“I was just thinking, ‘What am I doing right now?’” Blake jokes.
Ashley says the three two-minute rounds flew by.
“Everything was happening too fast to keep up, there wasn’t really time to think.”
She says combating her shaky legs was just the first challenge.
“I just had to listen to what I could from my corner.”
Blake says his opponent was relentless in his offence, but he had prepared for the worst.
“He threw heaps and he really wanted it, but I was ready for that and got the outcome I wanted.”
Ashley would defeat Christchurch’s Josie Shum in split decision while Blake scored a unanimous victory over Patrick Liptrot.
Coach Paul Hampton says he is incredibly proud of his fighters.
“It was a massive step up for them.”
Fellow Victory boxers Paddy Baker and Ben Richards also won titles after they were unopposed in their divisions.
Josh Richards, also a Victory boxer, went down in the under- 60kg junior male novice category but was voted best junior fighter.
Paul says the results confirms the talent and commitment of his fighters.
Blake recently called curtains on his rugby career to focus on boxing after a knee injury forced an extended stint on the sidelines.
The Nelson College student says following the fight, he felt a combination of exhaustion and ecstasy.
“When he raised my hand I just looked over at Paul and I was just so stoked, and I could see he was stoked too.”
While the body was a bit sore the next day, Blake says he felt fantastic following the fight and is already hungry for a second bout.
Ashley says the fight was a lot harder than expected.
“My opponent put up a really good fight and hit really hard.”
However, the 23-year-old weathered the storm with her speed, explosiveness and savage uppercut helping earn the victory.
“I was proud of the way I pushed forward, I was very shocked that I won, I didn’t realise I had done so well.”
Ashley has also enjoyed success in another sport, trading the dancefloor for the canvas a little over a year ago.
She owns the Born and Raised dance academy in Stoke and has enjoyed a prosperous hip-hop career but, like Blake, has shifted her focus to boxing.
Both Blake and Ashley benefitted from some top training including a session with Shane ‘The Mountain Warrior’ Cameron.
She says the former New Zealand heavyweight champ put strong emphasis on doing the basics well.
“He also taught me about being aggressive, I really enjoyed the intensity, it helped me a lot.”
Paul also received texts of congratulations from former Warrior and NZ Cruiser weight champ Monty Betham as well as the country’s most well-known boxer, Joseph Parker.
Both fighters will now turn their attention to June’s Golden Gloves in Christchurch with the dream of becoming the country’s best fighters in their respective weight classes.