By Craig Watt
When Danny Green destroyed Roy Jones Jr in just 122 seconds at the Acer Arena on December 3rd it gave Australian boxing a huge boost, not just for the result but because it put the sport back in the media spotlight and has created some momentum for the sport “Down Under”. On a daily basis now, boxing coverage has shown a visible jump in media exposure and coverage all over Australia. At the same time, the highly entertaining TV show The Australian Contender, shown on Fox 8 in Australia has brought in excellent TV ratings and put the spotlight on some of the best prospects the country has on offer — it has been compelling for the fans, many of whom are now new viewers and new fans of boxing. Indeed, the final on January 11th at the Sydney Entertainment Centre is part of a major PPV event in Australia that sees Anthony “The Man” Mundine (37-3, 23 KOs) take on Rob Medley (27-2, 17 KOs) for the WBA international title at middleweight as the main event over twelve rounds with Garth Wood (6-1, 3 KOs) and Kariz Kariuki (21-7-1, 18 KOs) clashing for the Contender final – the winner then to take on the former two time WBA 168 pound champion in his next fight and a guaranteed purse of $250,000.
The Contender finalists:
Garth Wood – Record: (6-1, 3 KOs)
Garth Wood is 31 years of age from Sydney, New South Wales and is relatively inexperienced fighter but taken his opportunity well in the tournament so far. He comes to the sport from a professional sports career in Rugby League and his fitness, power and determination were evident in his semi-final win when he outpointed tough Russian Victor Oganov, who had a record of (30-1, 28 KOs) coming into the bout. Oganov had also given “Super Six” contestant Andre Dirrell a tough fight in 2009 – his only professional defeat coming into the bout. Wood outworked Oganov in an exciting bout and showed grit, heart and determination to upset the odds and take the majority decision 48-45, 48-47 and 48-48 over the five rounds. In the quarter final, Wood showed a sense of urgency when he stopped Israel Kani in the second round when it looked like bad cuts over the left and right eye of Wood could force the fight to be stopped. Just at the point when referee Charlie Lucas was taking a closer look, Wood unleashed a powerful right hand that stopped the fight. Despite his relative inexperience inside the ring, his physical power brought from Rugby League with his “never say die” attitude and determination many people believe could cause an upset in the final and set up a fight with Mundine.
Kariz Kariuki – Record (21-2, 18 KOs)
The 31 year old Kenyan has been the quiet unassuming contender so far but whilst others have sought the TV camera and limelight of the show, Kariuki has done all his talking in the ring and impressed. He is a slick boxer behind a fast jab and good movement. He is on a winning streak of six fights and (3-0) in the Contender Series. In his first fight against Adrian Taihia he stopped the unbeaten Kiwi in the second round that caught the eye of the watching fans and then went on to outpoint former WBA 168 pound title challenger Nader Hamden and then Josh Clenshaw in the semi finals. In both fights the Kenyan boxed superbly and controlled the fights, winning both on unanimous decisions over the scheduled five rounds. Kariuki is hoping that a win will enable his to bring his daughter to live in Australia from his native Kenya so he can be with his family. He is the favorite for the final on Monday.
Overall, both Green’s win and the arrival of the Contender has gotten people talking about boxing again in Australia and with champions such as Danny Green, Vic Darchynian, Anthony Mundine and Michael Katsidis plus rising contenders Daniel Geale, Billy Dib, Will Tomlinson, Steve Wills, Lenny Zappavinga and Peter Matrevski Jr showing great promise, 2010 promises to be a fantastic year for Australian boxing. The Contender final and Mundine vs Medley can be seen on Main Event PPV on Monday January 11th at 8pm AEDT.