AUSSIE BOXING: A HEALTH REPORT
By TOM WATT on June 11 2015
This year we’ve seen a number of Australia’s finest Boxers test their skills on a World level with Daniel Geale, Billy Dib and Sakio Bika all going for World Titles in their respective divisions, this is great for Australian Boxing but what isn’t great are the results that have come from those fights as each fighter has fallen short at the final hurdle. There’s certainly no shame in any of these losses – Geale fought the most feared and avoided man on the planet in Gennady Golovkin in New York last year and then came back less than a year later to take on future Hall Of Famer, Miguel Cotto. Billy Dib took on long-time reigning Champion Takashi Miura, undefeated since 2011 and the current WBC and former WBA Champion. Sakio Bika made a move up to Light Heavyweight and took on the WBC Champion, Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson without so much as a ‘tune-up’ in the new weight. So whilst there is no shame in any of these losses, with so many Aussies getting their title shots, the question is why are they not able to convert those chances and bring the belts home?
Obviously in the instances mentioned above these guys are taking on the very best in the World and sometimes no amount of training can change that – Billy Dib was dominating Takashi Miura until he let his hands drop momentarily and was caught with a thunderous punch that ended the fight, something that World Champions can do at any weight. However, when you look at Dib’s previous fights in comparison to that of his opponent, the calibre is just not at the level it should be. Dib’s two previous fights prior to taking on Miura were both in Australia, which is fine, however the issue is the level of opponent brought in to face him - with a combined record of 23-20-1, both Ruben Manakane and Santos Sampaio are simply put, not World Championship level fighters. In comparison, Miura’s previous two opponents held a combined record of 47-7-1, much more in line with the level he is used to fighting at.
It’s easy to use stats to your advantage and obviously there are some great fighters out there with less than impressive stats, either due to bad luck, blossoming late in their career, or even just for taking too many tough fights but the fact of the matter is that in if a fighter is to move up to World level, there has to be a gradual step-up in class of opposition, otherwise it is unfair to expect someone to adapt to that level in the ring, on the night of their big World Title challenge. - Take for example, UK Heavyweight Anthony Joshua’s progress – the Olympic Gold Medallist has knocked all of his opponents within 4 rounds and has looked very impressive in doing so, however despite the excitement and the hype surrounding Joshua, his promoter, Eddie Hearn, very carefully selects his opponents to make sure he is continuously stepping up a level and learning with each fight. This strategy works very well when done properly as it gives fighters a steady learning curve before they jump into really deep water.
What I am seeing in Australia is quite different, with 99% of domestic fights you could pick the winner before either man steps into the ring - this Saturday for example there is a card, where out of 6 fights, 5 have ‘yet to be named’ opponents! What that means is that at least 5 of those fighters will be almost guaranteed a win as long as they turn up and fights like that just do not give a fighter the ring experience that his record states he should have. Going 10, 12, 15-0 against guys with more losses than victories on their record is good for the resume but very little else and this is the big flaw in Australian Boxing at the moment. These domestic records are enough to secure Regional Title shots which in turn will see a fighter rise into the World Rankings and on course for a World Title shot and that is the route most look to take, however the issue arises when they get there and realise they haven’t operated at that level long enough or in some cases, at all.
It’s difficult for Australia because the logistics of it’s geography, you aren’t going to get guys flying half way round the world to fight in local promotions – in America and Europe the proximity to hundreds of fighters opens up avenues that are simply not a possibility in Australia and that is not going to change. But there are a few things that would help to raise the level of competition for upcoming prospects in Australia.
Firstly, there needs to be more cohesion between promoters, as I have written before, the UK has benefited from having Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren dominating the landscape, obviously there is a long list of other promoters but the majority of fighters/shows are controlled by these guys, what that does is to centralize talent and allow fights to be made between camps that wouldn’t previously have any contact with each other – it can also be used to force fighters to take tougher fights then they would have with their managers making the fights. What we have at the moment is a myriad of local promoters keeping their prized assets happy and padding out resumes which may be financially beneficial for the individuals involved but does not represent a healthy outlook for the long-term future of the sport or the fighters who eventually find out what a truly competitive fight is when it is too late.
Secondly, there needs to be more focus on the amateur game, Australia has a raft of exciting amateur prospects competing at various events and with greater media exposure they will be able to make an easy transition to the pros and command more money and a better quality of opposition - much in the way former Olympians, James DeGale, Frankie Gavin, Amir Khan, Billy Joe Saunders and Anthony Joshua have done in the UK. A good example of how this is not being capitalised upon is Australia’s Commonwealth Gold Medallist, Andrew Maloney who was one the major highlights for Boxing in Glasgow – Maloney is now 3-0 as a professional but has had very little media exposure to date and risks losing the opportunity to capitalise on the impression he made in Scotland.
Finally, there needs to be more media exposure for the sport in general if Australia is to truly compete with America, Mexico, Britain and the other great Boxing nations around the World – at the moment you are not even guaranteed to see the stars of Australian Boxing on TV because of the TV networks reluctance to invest in the sport, with less TV coverage comes less money in the sport and less money makes good fights harder to make. If the areas mentioned here are addressed then not only would Australia have more fighters at World level, but they would be more competitive when they arrived – they might even be able to bring a big fight down under!
If these areas mentioned above aren’t addressed then you can expect to see the same old story time and time again. Obviously fighters like Geale, Mundine, Dib and Bika have made it to the pinnacle of the sport and secured their World Champion status in the past and may well do it again but if the sport grows and is able become more mainstream and benefit from the support and infrastructure that sports such as swimming receive then the depth of Aussie talent could be realised and Boxing could become yet another Sport where Australia is synonymous with success.
1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
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