THE inside of the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex (GRSC) was unrecognisable on Saturday night, as the stadium was transformed into a world-class stage for Wildfighter Boxing Round 8.

Within hours, Stratford’s Max Reeves would enter the ring in the battle of the undefeated, taking on Queensland opponent Leo Grant. As quickly as you could count to 100 seconds, Reeves secured another Super Middleweight professional boxing title, defeating Grant in a first-round TKO.

A crowd of 1400 buzzed, and the GRSC’s metal walls vibrated in reciprocation. Bright, flashing lights illuminated the ring and oscillated into the spectator’s area. Bubbly drinks from the pop-up bars stickied the polyurethane floor, and the name Max Reeves circled the stadium like Chinese Whispers.

Sale’s Codie Hodges in his debut exhibition fight. Photo: Grant McKillop

Spectators took their seats for the night’s first fight in the sporting event of the year. Sale youngster Codie Hodges was the first to enter the ring, facing opponent Alex Manssour in his debut exhibition fight.

Following the exhibition fights, the announcer called the name Lucy Avage. Screams and cheers echoed the stadium as the local Bairnsdale girl appeared behind a puff of smoke and worked her way towards the ring.

In the middle of the ring, Avage stared into her opponent Kim Thorsen’s eyes as the referee reminded fighters of the rules.

Bairnsdale’s Lucy Avage (white helmet) fighting last Saturday at the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex during Wildfighter Round 8. Photo: Grant McKillop

The match bell broke the silence that had cloaked the arena, and the crowd roared as Avage and Thorsen threw their best punches.

After three rounds, the local fighter, trained by Paul ‘Turk’ Carroll, was crowned the winner by unanimous decision.

The success for local fighters didn’t stop there.

Brothers Jhon Cortejos and Peter Pirona, trained by former Heavyweight Champion Jeremy Joiner, concluded the night as victors, earning themselves professional titles.

Sale’s Jhon Cortejos (right) defeated Daniel Harwood (left) in his Wildfighter bout. Photo: Grant McKillop

Cortejos defeated Daniel Harwood in four rounds by unanimous decision, earning himself his second professional featherweight title in just four weeks.

Sale’s Jhon Cortejos celebrates after defeating Daniel Harwood. Photo: Grant McKillop

Pirona made his professional boxing debut, facing his super middleweight opponent Leo Forchin.

Sale’s Peter Pirona lands one against Leo Forchin in his first pro fight at Wildfighter Round 8. Photo: Grant McKillop

By unanimous decision, Pirona defeated Forchin in a gruelling four rounds of boxing, leaving the ring with his first ever professional title.

Sale’s Peter Pirona throwing his hands up in victory at Wildfighter Round 8. Photo: Grant McKillop

In other fights, Vita Pomale defeated Waikato Falefehi by a fourth-round TKO, Cesur Afacan defeated Sayan Sirimongkhon by a second-round TKO, and Bairnsdale’s Blake Wells pulled out due to injury.

A deafening roar rumbled the ground at the GRSC as the man of the hour, undefeated Super Middleweight Champion, ranking third in Victoria and fifth in Australia, Stratford’s ‘Mad Max Reeves’, appeared, appropriately walking out to ‘Homecoming’ by Kanye West.

As the local blonde bombshell walked toward the ring, followed by his entourage, including coaching legend Turk, screams grew even louder.

The Gippsland Regional Sports Complex was transformed for Wildfighter. Photo: Grant McKillop

A hush fell upon the crowd, leaving ears ringing as Max Reeves took his place in the centre of the ring, standing inches from his opponent, Leo Grant.

Reeves’ eyes deadlocked on Grant, flooding the stadium with an electrifying, pulsating energy.

The undefeated super middleweight pro boxers touched gloves, showing their respect to one another and returned to their corners for one last word of advice from their coach.

Ding.

It was on.

Ding.

It was done.

Strong, agile and light on his toes, the former Junior Australian Boxing Champion ‘Mad Max’ Reeves was relentless as he laid shot after shot on his opponent.

90 seconds in.

With a cracking right hook to his opponent’s jaw, Reeves sent Grant’s head flying backwards, and the Queenslander stood shakily on his feet.

The referee was quick to separate the fighters and have Grant assessed by the match doctor.

The clock ticked away, 95 seconds… 96 seconds… 97…

A headshake from the doctor, the ring of a bell; in less than two minutes, Reeves kept his undefeated title, defeating Grant in a round one TKO, winning his fifth Super Middleweight Professional Boxing title from six bouts.

Mad Max Reeves raising his hand in victory, remaining undefeated. Photo: Grant McKillop

The crowd went ballistic. The lights shining upon the Wildfighter ring shook as excited feet stomped the ground. Men wrapped their arms excitedly around their mates shoulders, splashing beer upon their chests.

Women held each other’s hands as they jumped up and down, releasing a high-pitched “whooooooo” as they flicked their hair back and forth.

And Max.

Max Reeves smiled from ear-to-ear as he received an embrace from coach Carroll and, while it’s uncertain to say for sure, as the ring’s bright lights distorted objects ever so slightly, for a brief moment, you could have sworn you saw a wave of pure relief and emotion wash over Reeves with the glaze of a tear.

“I was pretty nervous all day Saturday,” Reeves said.

“It was a long day to wait around to fight.

“As I was walking out, the nerves disappeared because the sound of the crowd, the noise they were making was pretty unreal.”

Mad Max Reeves is next scheduled to fight on September 14, 2022.