By Craig Watt
Australian IBO middleweight champion Anthony “The Man” Mundine (36-3, 23 KOs) is one of boxing’s most controversial and outspoken characters, often noted for his exploits outside the ring, rather than his achievements inside the ropes. Behind the brash exterior however is a boxer that has operated at world level for the last five years and is a former two weight WBA champion at super middleweight and middleweight. He added the IBO 160 pound title in May when he outpointed Daniel Geale in a close and split decision in Brisbane. Both fighters share the same bill at the Silverdome in Prospect, Tasmania on Wednesday in a bill titled, “The Road To Rematch” aimed at building to a rematch of the two fighters, planned for 2010. Their first fight was one of the best seen in an Australian ring earlier this year and the IBO has ordered a rematch, such was the close scoring of the bout.
The 34 year old Mundine, from Sydney takes on Argentinean Alejandro Gustavo Falliga (17-5-3, 6 KOs) in a non-title bout at super middleweight over twelve rounds. In the co-main event Daniel Geale (21-1, 13 KOs) faces off against Brazilian Samir Dos Santos Barbosa (22-5-3, 17 KOs) for the vacant IBF Pan Pacific Middleweight Title. Both fights are televised on PPV in Australia from 7pm AEST on Main Events.
Mundine is one of Australia’s most successful sporting athletes having played the national sport of Rugby League at the highest level from 1993-2000 and being the sport’s highest paid “marquee” player when he turned his attention to boxing in 2000 having won major honours with St.George and the Brisbane Broncos.
His father is Tony Mundine, a middleweight contender in the 1970’s who is rated one of Australia’s greatest ever fighters and has helped guide his son’s career when he turned professional with no amateur experience other than four fights when he was just seventeen. In the last five years he has also been guided by Roy Jones Snr and his style, speed and movement bear some similarities.
Mundine is devoutly proud of his Aboriginal roots and is a major role model in Australia amongst his people and in the build to Wednesday’s fight visited inmates at Hobart Prison in the week, trying to offer the inmates at alternative route to a life of crime with a pep talk about the virtues of a crime free life. Often behind his brash and outspoken exterior he is seen to help many disadvantaged groups in Australian Society, having previously won the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Person of the Year.
He is currently champion with the IBO at Middleweight and is also the mandatory WBA#1 contender for Felix Sturm’s title and enjoys WBO#3 and IBF#5 rankings. He told Fightnews today he wishes to enter the global world stage in 2010 and take on either Felix Sturm or the winner of the upcoming WBO title fight between Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams. His clear message to the boxing world was, “Anthony Mundine is out there – return my calls when I call you for the big fights because I am serious – 2010 is going to be a big year !”
Anthony – tell us about how you entered into the world of boxing and your background in Rugby League. Why the switch?
When I was a child I always held a personal ambition to play Rugby League for Australia and then become a professional boxer. Obviously my father is one of Australia’s best known fighters as a middleweight contender in the 1970’s so that interest and guidance was always there for me. When I was at the peak of my Rugby League career ten years ago I was the marquee player and even then held the highest contract in the sport but that wasn’t my motivation – I wanted to play for my country, Australia. I am a very proud Australian, proud of my Aboriginal roots and wanted to represent my country in the sport I had won every honour and played at the highest level. However, whatever the injury situation in the national team they never made the call and although I was brash and outspoken, as I have been all my sporting career I don’t think I was given a fair crack of the whip and decided to change direction with my father and into the sport of boxing. I have never looked back and not many former rugby league players have gone on to become a two weight world boxing champions.
Did you have any amateur experience when you turned professional?
Not really, other than 4 amateur fights when I was seventeen years old. What people fail to realise even though I am 34 years old I have only been a boxer for nine years and so I am like Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones who have also looked after their bodies and still in prime shape as the years come on. With my dad at the helm I always had confidence he would take me all the way and become world champion. I quickly rose up the rankings and lost to undefeated IBF super middleweight champion Sven Ottke in 2001 in just my 11th pro fight, in Germany. I realised that that was the level of boxing I was capable of and it gave me confidence to continue my quest to become world champion. I had won the Australian super-middleweight title in just my fifth fight and 15 months after turning pro was fighting the world’s best in my chosen division.
Your fight with Daniel Geale in Brisbane in May was one of the best ever seen in an Australian ring – how did you see the fight?
I know the IBO have ordered a re-match but I clearly won that fight by 4 or 5 rounds. I was always landed the superior punches and getting hit less. Geale fought a good fight and it was exciting for the fans. I am open to a rematch and that is why I am here in Geale’s home venue to build up to that outcome. It was an excellent fight last time but we won’t need the judges next time as I will knock him out. No need for the scorecards then.
You are also WBA #1 ranked to Felix Sturm’s title at super middleweight – are you going to try and force a mandatory defense?
I am at the stage of my career now having two WBA titles at middleweight and super-middleweight that I want the major fights with the major champions and Sturm has been a long time champion. I have earned my mandatory position and want to take him on in 2010 for sure. I am a little nervous however of going to Germany and taking him on there – in an ideal world I would like a neutral venue but I will hold out for my shot against Sturm and regain my WBA title. I know I have the boxing ability to beat Sturm.
You are also ranked WBO#3 and IBF#5 are there any other fights out there you would like?
As I mentioned, I am ready for the big fights now on the global stage and I would like to take on the winner of Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams. That fight would suit me and enable me to show the boxing world that I can mix it with the top Americans and top fighter’s around the world. We have a big 2010 planned for Anthony Mundine and these marquee fights against the marquee fighters in world boxing are the ones we want. Tell the world Mundine is ready to take on the world in 2010 so return my calls and let’s get these fights on.
Many Australian’s are disappointed that you haven’t managed to ink a re-match with Danny Green after your fight in 2006 drew over 37,000 fans in Sydney. Why has this fight not happened?
You better ask Danny that. I have heard a lot of talk about our first fight and how he struggled to make super middleweight and was drained come fight night. I whipped his ass and there were no questions at the end of the night – I won every minute of every round and outclassed him. People are talking about the weight being the issue preventing a re-match now I am at middleweight and he is at cruiserweight. That doesn’t bother me – I am quite happy to fight Danny Green at heavyweight if he wants. No issues from my side about a re-match with Danny at anytime and any weight.
How do you see the December fight with Roy Jones and Danny Green?
I think this will be an easy nights work for Roy Jones – the fight is like chalk and cheese in terms of talent and skill. Roy is totally superior but what I will say is that Danny does possess the punch power up at cruiserweight that could cause an upset. What you have to remember is that all of us boxers and fighters are always just one punch from disaster and at this level anything can happen.
Would you like to be in a big Australian super-fight in 2010?
If Joe Calzaghe is watching and wants to return to the ring then a mega fight in Melbourne could be available – it would be a great spectacle and perhaps the Roy Jones and Danny Green fight can set a run of bug mega fights for our great country. We would pack out 40,000 fans plus to see someone like Joe Calzaghe in an Australian boxing ring.
You are going to be a key part of the Australian Contender series to be played on Fox 8 on November 2nd here in Australia – what is the background?
In simple terms I am giving 14 fighters the chance to face off against each other and take me on in January 2010 and a cash prize. This is a new concept for the Contender series globally and should provide some interesting matches along the way. This will be the chance to fight a world champion for the winner.
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Overall Anthony Mundine is in positive mood and with major opportunities on all fronts 2010 should be a major year for the outspoken Australian middleweight.