It’s time for Mundine to act like a man, not The Man
You can’t believe Anthony Mundine is whingeing that he was robbed. You just can’t believe it. That said, it’s Anthony Mundine we’re talking about here, so actually, who’s surprised?
Daniel Geale failed to land a knockout blow last night but he was clearly the better fighter. A bit quicker, a bit smarter, a bit more resilient and as ever, a whole lot more humble.
As a sportsman, Mundine is no longer relevant. He was world class in his day but like Ricky Ponting, he is now in his late 30s and clearly past his prime. Maybe he’ll fight on, may be he won’t. The real question now is whether he is still relevant as a public figure.
Actually, that question is a bit of a non sequitur. He is not, and will not, be relevant in Australian public life until he learns a little humility.
Last night’s fight was a boxing contest but it was so much more than that. All great sport is underpinned by much more than two sweaty teams or individuals dukin’ it out. Great sport is about narrative, about storyline. And last night’s storyline was a classic case of humility versus ego.
In one corner, a knockabout world champion from Tasmania who has endeared himself to everyday Australians. In the opposite corner, a talented but arrogant bigmouth who has alienated himself from all bar his inner circle through a decade and a half of grotesquely narcissistic pronouncements on everything from his own ability to the state of Western morality.
Mundine’s supporters are an aggressive lot who come from all walks of life. They are lawyers, street brawler, activists and athletes. They are united in some cases by Mundine’s adopted religion of Islam, in some cases by their Aboriginal heritage and in other cases by an amorphous and ill-defined sense of us-against-them.
What they all have in common is the inability to distinguish the brash from the boastful, the cocky from the downright offensive.
And Anthony Mundine has been seriously offensive over the years. His invective has gone way beyond the usual boxing trash talk and bravado. His statement in October 2001 that that America brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself remains the low point.
He apologised, and clumsily attempted to retract the statement, but he couldn’t help himself. Again and again over the years, he made statements which were not only offensive but dumb. His latest was to question Daniel Geale’s Aboriginal heritage.
Another memorable gaffe of logic was his sourpuss claim that he never received the rugby league representative honours his rare talent so richly deserved because selectors were racist.
Say what? As Daily Telegraph journalist Paul Kent helpfully pointed out in his memorable exchange at a press conference this week, the chairman of selectors at the time was none other than the late Arthur Beetson, a deeply revered all time great of the game and a proud Aboriginal.
For all his missteps and colourful over-estimation of his place in the all-time pantheon of sporting greats, Mundine has done good in the community. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do a whole bunch of stuff. He is, to employ that over-used term, a true role mode to street kids and many others within a wide range of communities.
There is a run-down boxing ring at a church-run centre for troubled youth in Sydney’s inner west which I happen to know Mundine has visited numerous times over the years. Not for money, not for publicity, but because he believes in using his powers to help others.
The challenge now for Mundine is to brings some of that private humility to the public arena. He doesn’t have to change who he is. He can stay angry. He can remain fired up and cocky.
But Anthony Mundine has to box clever away from the ring. He has to think harder about what he says, and get it into his head that one stupid statement undermines 100 quiet acts of goodwill.
If he fails to change, the whole of Australia will lose interest in him quicker than he exited the ring last night without acknowledging the winner.
But if he succeeds, well, Anthony Mundine might end up being a whole lot more than The Man. He might be a man.
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