The real reason we can’t cop Anthony Mundine
Is it cos he is black? Is it cos he is Muslim? Is it cos he is free?
You suspect Anthony Mundine would like to believe his immense unpopularity in this country is attributable to redneck prejudice against all these things, but the truth is simpler.
We can’t cop Mundine because he isn’t what he says he is – a world champion. Not even close. In the alphabet soup of boxing, he has latched on to obscure titles simply because other, better fighters simply didn’t know (or care) they existed. Claiming them as world titles is like getting into law at Bond University and telling everyone you graduated from Harvard.
In his quieter moments, Mundine must know he wouldn’t cut it in the US. At 34, if he truly thought himself a contender, he would have already tried. His hero Ali was two years younger when he cut down George Foreman, the 25-year-old oak tree, in Kinshasa. Even then, the world’s press was talking about Ali as if he was a kindly old man with a screw loose. For some reason, we talk about Mundine like he hasn’t yet reached his peak.
Mundine doesn’t like to talk at all about the time he fought a world-class boxer. After 10 competitive rounds in January 2001, Sven Ottke from Germany had enough and iced him with a shot to the temple. Mundine was so flat and lifeless on the canvas we all thought he was part of the Budweiser ad. Like a kid once bitten by the neighbourhood dog, Mundine has stayed closer to home since then.
If he ever decides to contest a meaningful title belt, Mundine will likely face an opponent whose personal story is every bit as romantic as The Man’s. Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik, 27, is the son of a waitress from Youngstown, Ohio. Pale and gangly, he looks more like REM frontman Michael Stipe than a pugilist, but Mundine couldn’t hold him.
If Mundine wants to be a world champion then sooner or later he has to fight one. In the meantime, he’s having enough trouble trying to stay on top in the second-rate Australian boxing scene.
Three weeks ago, he fronted up to Brisbane Entertainment Centre to fight Commonwealth Games gold medallist Daniel “The Real Deal” Geale, 29. A tough kid from Launceston now fighting out of Mount Annan in Sydney’s south-west, Geale very nearly got him. If you watch Mundine closely, he has a way of turning his back and head to his opponent every time he gets into trouble. It has the effect of forcing the referee to separate and the other boxer loses the moment. Geale’s answer – and it was the right one – was to simply hit him in the back of the head.
For the record, I think Mundine won the fight, but as usual any respect he might have gained was wiped away by the juvenile crap he carried on with during and after the bout.
There was the faulty tape around his gloves that kept coming unstuck and hanging loose at the most convenient times, earning him a breather mid-round so it could be fixed. There was the refusal to hold his opponent’s hand at the finish, as if Geale was somehow unworthy of his acknowledgment. Geale is now appealing the judges’ decision and Mundine has made another enemy when he needn’t have.
At Sydney’s Five Dock RSL club the other week, hundreds of fight fans packed in to see whether this would be the one to shut Mundine up for good. When he emerged the winner, the place cleared quicker than a nursing home on bingo day. They didn’t want to hear him talking in that silly faux-Kentucky accent he uses to mimic Ali. They have stopped listening.
Mundine is not “divisive,” because that word suggests opinion is evenly split. He has reached the stage where the public only turns up to see him lose – and you sense that time is not far away.
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