By Craig Watt
As we move into a new boxing year Australian boxing fans have one fight they wish to see happen in 2009. This fight is the re-match of former WBA light-heavyweight and WBC interim super-middleweight champion Danny Green (25-3, 22 KOs) and his arch rival Anthony Mundine (34-3, 23 KOs). Their first fight in May 2006 in Sydney broke all Australian box office records as they generated in excess of $10m revenue and a live crowd of over 37,000 at the Aussie Stadium in Sydney, New South Wales. Unofficial figures suggest a PPV audience in excess of 800,000 for the bout and given the country has a national population of just 22 million, it clearly showed how the fight sparked the public’s imagination. Many feel this type of viewing audience, both live and PPV can be repeated if the fighter’s enter the ring for a second time later in 2009.
The first fight saw Mundine win comfortably on the scorecards with a unanimous decision and scores of 116-113 and 118-112 (twice). The former two time WBA 168 pound champion seemed to use his superior speed and boxed well and Green was unable to gain any consistent advantage and land his noted power shots. It is now over two years since the bout and whilst Mundine regained the WBA super-middleweight title in March 2007 and defended it four times he has struggled to win global adulation. In the other corner, Danny Green moved up to 175 pounds and won the WBA title in December 2007, defeating Stipe Drews at the Challenge Stadium in Perth, Western Australia. In a surprising move however he decided to retire on March 25th 2008, just weeks before his planned first defense of his new WBA title. He was due to fight Argentina’s Hugo Garay and emotionally told a press conference on this date that he wished to retire at the top of his game as world champion.
Team Mundine tried to entice “The Green Machine” back in the ring with a $5m re-match offer and 92 days after his stated retirement announcement Danny Green re-affirmed his decision to stay outside the ring. He called the offer by Mundine’s manager, Khoder Nasser as “crazy” and he was currently happily retired. The talk in Australia however has not gone away. Indeed, Khoder Nasser responded by saying after Green’s press conference on the 24th June, “He hasn’t said no. He had made a lifetime decision to walk away from the sport but now he is saying that the decision isn’t final.”
In November 2008 Green was a contestant on the Australian version of Dancing With The Stars and came runner up with his dance partner Natalie Lowe. The final drew a viewing audience in Australia of over 2 million viewers and he hinted that a 2009 return may be on the cards. Fightnews caught up with the former WBA light-heavyweight champion in Perth, Western Australia to give us an update on the fight all of Australia wants to see.
Danny, the boxing fans of Australia are wondering whether you will return to the ring in 2009, can you give us an update?
This is a big challenge for me as I normally keep my word when I decide to do something and when I made my decision to retire that was it. I wanted to retire at the top of my sport and as WBA light heavyweight champion that is what I did. I had all my faculties in tact, been a two weight world champion and made a good living in the sport. I have a lovely family with wife Nina and two young children, Chloe who is five and Archie who is one. They mean the world to me and I have had an opportunity to spend some quality time with them which many men don’t get that chance. However, the challenge for me is that in my heart I love the sport of boxing and my only losses were to Marcus Beyer in Germany, controversially and my loss to Mundine. I know against Mundine I fought the wrong fight and revenge and redemption is in my mind.
So you will return to the ring in 2009?
I haven’t totally made up my mind and I have to balance the view that in ten years I don’t want to be saying – what if , what if, what if I had a re-match with Mundine and a chance to redeem myself in the eyes of the Australian boxing fans. The first fight was so huge and broke all Australian PPV figures for any event – show, pop concert, and sporting event. Given our country is so small, I am proud that I was part of such an event. I do have to balance this however with whether my body can take the torture of the training and punishment of the preparation that our fight game provides. I have kept myself in shape since I retired and the experience back in the spotlight with Dancing With The Stars was great and it sharpened me up. My flexibility is good and to get to the final was great. Everyone was telling me when I would come back and shut up Mr Mundine. He has the bragging rights currently but the motivation for redemption and revenge is a motivating factor.
When will you make your final decision to return?
I have discussed this with my wife and family and I hope to make the decision soon. People keep asking me and pushing me for a decision because the fight is so huge in Australia but I will make my mind up when I am ready – but it will be sooner rather than later. I will weigh up all the options and see what is best for the health and welfare of Danny Green.
If you do return to the ring, will it be just to fight Anthony Mundine?
We could try to bring some of the Americans over to Australia such as Roy Jones, Kelly Pavlik or Bernard Hopkins and that would sell out any arena in the country and generate a huge gate and PPV income. However, if I do return to the ring it will only be to avenge my loss in 2006. My only motivation to return and put my body through the pain I know it will have to go through is to do something that motivates me. Redemption, Revenge – these are the only two words I am interested in. I know on the world scale that many will not be bothered about Danny Green fighting Anthony Mundine but in Australia it is big news and a big fight. If I return it would only be to take on Mundine, preferably in my hometown of Perth, as I went to his backyard for the first fight. That is if I decide to return.
Will $5m be a temptation to you to return as Team Mundine has offered?
I know their offer of this money was real and I have to balance this in the current economic climate but it is not the money I would return for, if I made that decision. It would be purely to avenge only the second fighter who has beaten me. The losses against Marcus Beyer for the WBC super-middleweight title were controversial and I can accept that I gave my best but the refereeing and scoring were disappointing to say the least. Against Mundine I fought the wrong fight. He got to use his speed and boxing ability and I could not land my left jab or left hook. My preparation wasn’t ideal and both physically and mentally I know I can improve from the first fight.
How would you see a return fight?
It would be great to knock Mundine out in front of 40,000 fans in Perth. That would be my result. I know given the right preparation and tactics that would be possible.
Will you be ringside for Mundine’s fight with Shannon Taylor in Sydney on February 11th?
No – I will be watching the fight from television but I think Shannon may be a handful for Mundine if he is not at his best. I have sparred many rounds with Taylor and he is a tough cookie, wears his heart on his sleeve. It will be interesting to watch but I think Mundine will have the upper hand with speed and win. It will be a tougher fight than most expect though.
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Overall, Green remains tight-lipped about his real intentions although many believe that the lure of a $5m re-match will be too much to give up after a refreshing time with his family in 2008. It is obvious that revenge against Mundine is his only objective and many believe that fight will, eventually be made in Perth at the Challenge Stadium in 2009 in front of a 40,000 live gate. It will be interesting to see the post fight comments from Team Mundine after his fight against Shannon Taylor on February 12th. If that challenge and $5m offer is re-iterated once more, it just may be the deciding factor for undoubtedly Australia’s biggest potential fight of 2009.