By Liam Napier
Long before New Zealand boxing's current renaissance, Shane Cameron got his hands dirty laying the foundations.
Too often in sport we move on to the 'next big thing' without acknowledging those that paved the way. As Cameron closed the final chapter on his 14-year professional career with a loss to Kali Meehan on Saturday night's Super8 event in Auckland, it's worth remembering the hard grind he endured to help create a pathway for today's generation, not just his curtain call.
There's arguably never been more opportunities for aspiring boxers here. Even the Australians are flooding to these shores to cash in. Back when Cameron began his 34-fight career, though, he put on shows largely at his own risk.
Rather than chase potential overseas riches he campaigned at home. He fought in Feilding, Kerikeri, Gisborne, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland. He gave back to the regions, and promoted the sport from within.
"I've done a lot for New Zealand boxing," Cameron said. "I help bring the professional ranks back to New Zealand. When David [Tua] was fighting in the US, I came back. A lot of people criticised me for fighting in New Zealand. We did road tours just so people could actually get a glimpse of professional boxing in New Zealand.
"Look at it now; it's massive. Fight for Life tournaments are on; David [Aloua] is fighting back here, [Joseph] Parker is coming through, [Commonwealth Games gold medallist] David Nyika is emerging. The depth of New Zealand boxing is awesome. I now leave it up to those guys to conquer the world."
In time, when the emotions and initial disappointment subsides, Cameron will further reflect on his career that finished with three losses. His highlight reel will include a Commonwealth Games bronze medal; a devastating knockout of Monte Barrett, the Commonwealth cruiserweight crown and world title challenge against four-time Australian champion Danny Green.
Ultimately, though, it will also show a fighter with incredible heart. Numerous broken hands are a testament to his mental resilience.
"You'd have to shoot him six times before he'd fall," manager Ken Reinsfield once said.
"It's been a long career," Cameron said. "Winning a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games for New Zealand, then turning pro. I've had some awesome journeys. Sparring Mike Tyson and fighting our countryman David Tua.
"It wasn't my night but I still made it there. I started boxing when I was 20-years-of-age. I watched Tua fight for a world title before lacing up a pair of gloves. I'm happy with what I've done."
Cameron was never the most skilled or naturally gifted but he never once gave in. That was his trademark.
The 37-year-old won't be one of those boxers with endless comebacks. He is a man of this word. Attention now turns to his 10-month-old son Shane Jnr, nine-year-old daughter Georgia, wife Tara, his gym on the North Shore and promoting young super middleweight Ricky Murphy.
"It's emotional but that's it. As I said to my family there'll be no more black eyes or cuts," he said with another swollen face and split left eye.
"New Zealand has had their fair share of seeing me get cut. I get cut on the scales weighing in."
There was one subtle parting shot, too. Meehan gained his desired respect and legacy win at home but Cameron challenged him to continue fighting here, rather than benefitting the Australian boxing scene.
"You can't just have one fight back here in 20 years. Is he going to stay here and fight for New Zealand, or is he going to go back to Australia?