Aussie Boxing 'Never Better'

Aussie Boxing 'Never Better', by Grantlee Kieza - 15th January 2004

AUSTRALIAN boxing has never had it so good.

Even though Anthony Mundine is making the first defence of his world title against a man so old it's suspected he was last in Sydney in a midget submarine, The Man has helped push the fight game in this country to staggering new heights.

The proliferation of world titles and global sanctioning bodies means that for the first time in Australian boxing history we have three men claiming world championships at the same time.

In Kostya Tszyu, Australia boasts the unified world junior-welterweight champion and one of the greatest fighters ever in his weight division.

In Mundine and Danny Green we have two world champs at super-middleweight and the prospect of a superfight that could possibly top the 37,000 crowd for the Jeff Fenech-Azumah Nelson rematch in Melbourne.

On Monday night Mundine stakes the WBA super-middleweight title against Japanese fighter Yoshinori Nishizawa, 38, and hopeless.

The bout has such underwhelming public support that cobwebs are apparently growing over the ticket box at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre.

But regardless of the fight's merits, Mundine will star on Japanese television as Australian boxing once again gains global exposure.

The success of Tszyu, Green and Mundine has paved the way for a plethora of pugilists from these shores to push their claims for world titles.

Tszyu, preparing for his February 7 fight in Moscow with Sharmba Mitchell, said he was delighted to help lift the profile of Aussie boxing.

"I think in 2004 we will see even more Australian world champions," he said. "We've already got Danny Green and Anthony Mundine, but both Husseins can win a world title and Vic Darchinyan too.

"Paul Briggs also has a good chance. There are many other good young prospects."

Ray Wheatley, Australia's IBF vice-president, has helped set up world title fights for Mundine, Ricky Thornberry and Glen Kelly, and is now pushing the cause for many young Australian contenders through the IBF ratings.

"The fight game has never been so healthy at the top end in this country," Wheatley said. "Who knows - with a bit of luck we could realistically have five or six world champs by the middle of next year.

"Jeff Fenech, alone, has Vic Darchinyan, Nedal Hussein and Hussein Hussein - all capable of winning world titles."

For the record Australia's leading contenders are:

Nedal "Skinny" Hussein

No.1 contender WBC super-bantamweight title. Age: 26. Record: 32 fights, 31 wins, 18 KOs

A feared body puncher, Hussein's only loss was a disputed 10th-round cut eye stoppage against the world's top featherweight Manny Pacquiao, a three-time world champion from the Philippines who had to climb from the canvas to win. Hussein has also held the Commonwealth title and has beaten world-class fighters Joe Morales, Jackson Asiku, Brian Carr and Nathan Sting.

Vic Darchinyan

No.1 contender IBF flyweight title. Age: 28. Record: 20 fights, 20 wins, 15 KOs

Perhaps Australia's hardest puncher pound for pound, the rugged southpaw represented Armenia at the Sydney Olympics and has two knockout wins over former world champ Wande Chor Charoen of Thailand. He mauled Mexican Alejandro Montiel who had given IBF flyweight champ Irene Pacheco of Colombia a solid battle for 12 rounds only a few months earlier.

Paul Briggs

No.2 contender WBC light-heavyweight title. Age: 28. Record: 22 fights, 21 wins, 17 KOs

Unbeaten over the last seven years, Briggs has crushed top local fighters such as Tosca Petridis and Glen Kelly and overwhelmed former world middleweight champ Jorge Castro.

Hussein Hussein

No.4 contender WBA flyweight title. Age: 28. Record: 24 fights, 23 wins, 17 KOs

An Olympian and Commonwealth Games representative, Hussein was decked and outpointed by Thailand's regal WBC flyweight champ Pongsaklek Wongjongkam in Bangkok last November. But he gave a stirring performance and finished all over the world champ in the final round at Lumpini Stadium.

He hopes to face new WBA champ Lorenzo Parra, of Venezuela, this year.

Sam Soliman

No.7 contender IBF middle-weight title. Age 30. Record: 22 wins, 7 losses, 5 KOs

Since losing a hotly disputed 12-round decision to Anthony Mundine in Wollongong in 2001, Soliman has gone unbeaten in his last 10 fights, with impressive wins over the Jeff Fenech-trained pair of Nader Hamdan and Sakio Bika.

Robbie Peden

No.7 contender IBF junior-lightweight title. Age 30. Record: 24 fights, 22 wins, 12 KOs

A two-time Aussie Olympian, the California-based Peden has been a leading contender in the pros for several years but lost to John Brown and Juan Manuel Marquez, now the unified world featherweight champion. Peden stopped Lamont Pearson in his last fight to win the US title.

Shannan Taylor

No.9 contender IBF junior-middleweight title. Age: 31. 36 wins, 3 losses, 2 draws, 24 KOs

One of the most turbulent careers ever in Australian boxing saw Taylor stopped by three-division world champ Shane Mosley in a quest for the WBC welterweight title three years ago. Taylor was stopped in subsequent bouts by Aussie Julian Holland and Englishman Richard Williams amid a series of personal crises involving substance abuse. But he has gone unbeaten in his last eight fights.

Lovemore Ndou

No.10 contender IBF junior-welterweight title. Age: 32. Record: 42 fights, 36 wins, 5 losses, 1 draw

A long-time sparring partner for Kostya Tszyu, the smooth-boxing South African-born fighter is trying to jag a bout with his old boss.

In his last fight Ndou outclassed three-time world title challenger Carlos Rios.

Australia also has at least half a dozen other fighters who, on their night, are capable of upsetting title holders.

Glen Kelly, once the world's No.1 light-heavyweight contender, was stopped by Roy Jones Jr in Miami two years ago but is a much better fighter than he showed on the night and is rated No.12 WBC cruiserweight contender.

Nader Hamdan once the No.2 contender for Oscar De La Hoya's WBC junior-middleweight title, has recovered from his loss to Sam Soliman and has enlisted Ray Wheatley's help in trying to get an IBF super-middleweight title fight with Sven Ottke.

Gold Coast bantamweight Nathan Sting was knocked out in a round by Skinny Hussein four years ago but has shocked the British establishment with upsets over their stars Johnny Armour and Nicky Booth.

Maroubra's Jason De Lisle was stopped by Danny Green at Penrith Panthers last year, but along with New Zealand-based Melbourne fighter Paul Murdoch, is now a fringe contender for the world light-heavyweight title, holding down the No.15 spot in the IBF. Murdoch is No.15 in the WBA.

Guyana-born Gairy St Clair, whose only defeats have been to world champs, has won his last 13 fights and should feature in the world junior-lightweight ratings again after his recent close win over Jackson Asiku.

Daniel Rowsell rose to be the No.8 contender for the WBA cruiserweight title but his title aspirations were derailed in one round by Russian Valery Brudov in Paris.

And Michael Katsidis, a Toowomba junior welterweight whose brother is a star Queensland jockey, could be the hottest new talent in the game following a crushing victory over Kenyan Olympian Fred Kinuthia at Penrith Panthers.

Credit: The Daily Telegraph & FOX Sports


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