In the best traditions of a WBO title fight, just a few months ago all the preamble indicated the scrap to be prime minister was going to be a fairly even matchup. On one side was the pretender. After winning his previous bout against a woefully unprepared and subsequently blindsided Simon Bridges in a TKO, Todd Muller had risen to the top of his division as National Party leader. But the pressure to maintain his lofty status and the highly publicised shenanigans of his ‘posse’ was possum-in-the-headlights stuff for Muller, who had to hand in his championship belt, leaving his position vacant. Battle hardened and waiting in the wings was Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins, taking the vacant belt without having to raise a sweat, or even put on the gloves.
In the frantic run to the big fight on October 17, was it too little too late for ‘Crusher’ Collins, who has had little time to prepare, though maintains she is fighting fit pretty much all the time. Incumbent Jacinda ‘Aunty Cindy’ Ardern has had a bit of a dream run, a purple patch of form, and with a good team around her looked like a hot favourite for this fight. The TAB had her as a big odds-on winner, so not really a betting proposition head-to-head.
Typically, leading up to the fight there’s been plenty of verbal jousting, even before a punch has been thrown. ‘I’m going to crush her’ snarled Crusher. ‘I’m going to kill her – with kindness’ smiled Aunty Cindy.
Let’s look at the tale of the tape. Ardern certainly has youth and energy on her side, Collins the advantage of experience and being battle hardened. Ardern has a height and reach advantage, but Collins can take it on the chin, turn the other cheek, and deliver a few sharp jabs of her own. But honestly her jabs, and jibes, have let her down during the early rounds where she’s tired quickly and run out of puff as the leaders debates have gone on. She’s more of a wait-for-the-right-time one punch knockout fighter, but Ardern just isn’t letting her guard down. And she seems to have the stamina when it gets to the business end, absorbing the early blows from Crusher, then as she fades, goes in for the money shot.
Let’s not talk about weight (though Crusher has done a lot of leaning on her opponent lately, so could use weight to her advantage, tiring Ardern, working the inside.)
What about their respective records? Crusher Collins is a worthy adversary, an experienced and proven fighter, but can she step up to the next level? Aunty Cindy Arden is an old head on young shoulders and has the advantage of being top dog for a term – been there done that. But is there any chance for complacency? If she gets a bit casual in the ring, starts taunting Collins, showboating, she could be clipped by a blue glove, get a black eye, be red faced. But she’s shown she is smarter than that.
In the end, it all comes down to what happens on the night. Crusher Collins and her entourage squeeze through the crowd towards the ring, LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ booms from the stadium speakers: Don't call it a comeback / I've been here for years / I'm rocking my peers / Puttin' suckers in fear / I'm gonna knock you out / Mama said knock you out… Worryingly Crusher Collins is mouthing the lyrics.
Aunty Cindy Ardern is more demure. She’s chosen Lesley Gore’s ‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.
The fighters meet the referee in centre ring and touch gloves. Let’s get it on!