Danny Green will soon discover if his return to the ring at 42 was the right move

Danny Green will soon discover if his return to the ring at 42 was the right move - 1st August 2015


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IN ONE of the popular boxing movies, Rocky Balboa is asked why he keeps returning to the ring as he gets older and older.

“Fighters fight, that’s what fighters do,” the fictional heavyweight champion of the world responds.

Angelo Hyder likes that line, which he quotes as we watch Danny Green begin an hour-long training session in one of Melbourne’s more colourful gyms, the old adage about quitters never winning and winners never quitting writ large on the wall.

Hyder trains Green, who has declined to quit even though he is 42, reactivating his accomplished career after a three-year hiatus, with a very well-performed and much younger Slovakian light-heavyweight named Tamas Kovacs arriving soon for a 12 round bout at Hisense Arena on August 19 which will determine the wisdom - or otherwise - of that.

Kovacs is 29 and his only defeat in 27 fights was for a world title eight months ago so Green’s many fans - and he has never had any shortage of them - might be asking the same question put to Sly Stallone’s courageous character. And in truth, the answer wouldn’t be much different.

But it’s not entirely that simple.

Yes, says Green, he’s doing it mostly because he is convinced he still can, because he’s never lost the primeval urge that drives all boxers. But he doesn’t deny that money is a factor. And then there is the most obvious and yet the most nebulous motivation of all _ Mission Mundine.

The faded feud between Green and Anthony Mundine has been Australian sport’s biggest fizzer for nine years, which is how long it is since Mundine, taking full advantage of fighting at close to his own ideal weight, beat the overly-wasted West Australian on points in Sydney at their only meeting.

Danny Green trains in Melbourne ahead of his return to the ring.

If it is ever going to happen again, it has to be next year - Mundine is also in his 40s now.

But nobody should hold their breath.

When he announced what amounts to his comeback a month ago - not that he ever actually retired - Green admitted Mundine was the end game.

But this week he denied - unconvincingly - that it was his main reason for returning, said he couldn’t care what Mundine’s plans were, yet agreed a rematch was still an ambition.

It’s as if he does not want to emotionally commit to the mission in case he is left stranded, swinging at thin air. The same goes for Mundine, who was on radio the other day saying he doubted it would happen but careful not to rule it out.

These two very different personalities routinely trade insults and put-downs whenever the other’s name is mentioned and some of it is laughable, such as Mundine’s latest jibe that “the people who control this country want to see Green kick my arse because he represents them.”

Unless and until they ever get it back on it’s all just so much tedious pussy-footing _ and time continues to be the enemy of them both acquiring the big pay-day such a showdown would provide.

Green is obviously on borrowed time, and not much of it. Asked if there was a limit to how long boxers could go, he laughed and said: “I guarantee you I won’t be back here in another three years.”

His last outing, also in Melbourne, was a painful but decisive points victory over New Zealand hard-man Shane Cameron, bringing his impressive record to 33 wins, 28 by knockout, from 38 fights, with four versions of world titles across three sanctioning organisations in a variety of countries.

As he says, he has had his ups and downs, and one or two of his fights have raised eyebrows for the wrong reasons, but he has always been a tough, willing, durable and skilled competitor, as well as a good advertisement for the fight game in a number of ways.

He is approachable, articulate and unencumbered by any sign any of his marbles are missing _ and he has a social conscience.

His image has been enhanced by his recent “coward’s punch” campaign against street violence, to which he has contributed not just his famous name but significant dollars too.

According to Hyder, he is now more popular than he has ever been. Green, who describes himself as “one little guy who wants to make a difference,” is motivated by both anger and passion. The response to his project has been overwhelming, he says.

But back to the ring _ has he still got what it takes?

Hyder says the last thing a boxer loses is power and as he soaks up Green’s double-fisted assault on the pads in the gym, it is clear to even the female novices interrupting their own workouts to watch that he still hits extremely hard.

Training is now a matter of adjusting the balance between work and rest, says Hyder, who believes Green is stronger than ever because he has spent the last year establishing a gym in Perth and working out with clients every day.

Green is well aware sceptics are wondering why he is doing this. To some extent, he is himself.

“Yes, I was tentative, to be honest,” he says.

“I don’t need to do it but I wanted to. I figure there are a lot of worse things going on in the world and I’m not doing anything wrong, just something I was born with a gift to do.

“I want to exhaust that resource until I have no more to suck out of it.

“History tells me many fighters go well past their use-by date and I’m not the same physical specimen I was at 35, but I’m a smarter fighter.

“I am sparring with young guys which is difficult because for them every session (against me) is a world title.

“If I don’t perform, it’s ‘oh, the old bloke’s washed up, he’s gone too far.’ That pressure plays on your mind.

“But my goal has always been to perform when the bell goes and and people have paid to watch me. That’s when I want to be at my best - and it hasn’t always happened.”

Green says his main aim is to know that “when I check out” his family - he has a daughter Chloe, 13, and son Archie, 7 - are financially secure.

Maybe he won’t have to worry about Archie. “Look at this,” says Dad, proudly producing a video on his phone that shows the boy throwing text-book shadow punches.

The kid looks every inch a fighter - preparing to do what fighters do.


Twitter: @Reedrw