'Bruiser' Abbott is waltzed out of the fight on a TKO

AS CAGE fights go - and this was an event built to the proportions of a massacre in pre-bout publicity - it was a bloodless affair, absent of a knock-out.

It had to be decided on points, and the challenger, Bruiser Abbott, having talked big before the bout, couldn't find his killer punch.

Bloodnut Gillard walked away with little more than barked knuckles, spitting out her mouthguard and hollering, ''He's got nothin'! Nothin'!''

Abbott had expended too much energy bad-mouthing Gillard before the main event.

''She's a criminal,'' he'd offered - or words to that effect. No one could remember a contender talking so tough.

Gillard, knowing from a previous ambush that attack is the handiest form of defence, called Abbott out.

''You've got 15 minutes to show us your stuff or you have to slink away and apologise,'' she hissed, or words to that effect.

Abbott tried to get on his toes, but shuffled. He tried to dance, but was out of shape. He'd skipped training, leaving to his second, Julie Bishop, all the weight work.

Once he was in the ring, he couldn't bring himself to utter the word ''crime'', nor produce reliable evidence that it had occurred. He jabbed with an ''unethical'' here and an ''untrustworthy'' there and his haymakers were wild swings about being ''party to the creation of a slush fund''. Glory be, he was reduced to accusing Gillard of ''conduct unbecoming''. Close to throwing in the towel.

Cage-side, Gillard's lips curled into a knowing smile. She knew a technical knock-out was on the cards.

The challenger had relied on the morning's papers, and in the intervening hours they'd recanted on a central detail, robbing him of walloping power.

Gillard stuck in the boot. After months of smear and sleaze, she cried, this is all you've got: a ''halting, nervous and ultimately contentless performance?''

All the stuff about a crime? ''We've seen this movie before,'' crowed Gillard. Yes, the Godwin Grech affair: overreach and reliance on evidence that turned out to be a mirage, leading to another contender, Malcolm Utegate Turnbull, coming a gutser.

After 15 minutes of free punches, what was Bruiser Abbott's worst roundhouse, demanded Gillard? ''Conduct unbecoming.'' Haw.

The slush fund? The West Australian Commissioner for Corporate Affairs had asked whether it was a trade union, and had been told it wasn't a trade union. Which it wasn't. End of story.

Abbott, Gillard implied, had tripped on his own shoelaces. She, on the other hand, had been careful to knot hers tight for months, and wasn't about to admit they'd been loose years ago.

A decent man, she said, would have admitted he was outclassed and out of breath and apologised. But Abbott ''wasn't a decent man''.

You could just about hear the audience crying ''enough''. If you attend a cage fight, there's supposed to be blood. Not this time, and the season was over.

This story 'Bruiser' Abbott is waltzed out of the fight on a TKO first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.