What better way than to spend a Wednesday night than some “World Championship” Boxing. I’m not 100% exactly sure what the “Silver” title is or entails but it certainly doesn’t entitle the holder to be a “full” World Champion. Anthony “The Man” Mundine is certainly no stranger to these type of titles, as although he claims to be a 3 time World Champion, he has only ever been an “Interim” title holder (as there was a “Super” Champion above him at the same time) or the very lightly regarded IBO Champion, which is akin to me saying I was Formula 1 World Champion after winning a go-kart race down the local track.
On paper though, this really does look like a genuine fight. Rabchenko is from Belarus, and has won all of his 25 fights. He’s trained by the legendary Ricky Hitman Hatton – although only a fledgling trainer at this stage – and has come all the way to Australia to further his big fight credentials. It’s Mudine’s last chance saloon. If he gets beaten up, like he did in last fight against Clottey, it’s all over for him. If he manages to sneak a win, then it might present a last gasp “real” title shot. If he blasts the Belarussian out of the fight early, he would be reliant on becoming a mandatory challenger to get a match-up.
But first, the 8,000 strong sell-out crowd would settle in to enjoy the support fights. The Melbourne fight public is predominantly Mediterranean in heritage – and predominantly 40+. Paunches were at a premium and fair credit most of them made the effort to put on their best trainers for the night to mingle with the strippers and promo girls. The women that weren’t being paid to be there were at best and more politely mutton dressed as lamb. If people watching was a sport – you were at the Olympic Finals here!
I did get to see possibly the best nickname in boxing – “Mr. Frenzy” Kye McKenzie! You can’t help loving that. He won too! But the fight that caught everyone else’s attention was the Heavyweight bout between Australia’s Commonwealth Champion, 118kgs “Big Daddy” Browne taking on New Zealand’s (via Washington) #4 Chauncey Welliver.
Welliver tipped the scales at 138kgs (304lbs/22 stone). It is fair to say that the majority of the middle aged men in attendance were in better shape than the Yanwi (not sure Kikee is better??). Browne is unbeaten in 21 fights and is ranked in the top 20 in the world and looks menacing with the 6ft 5 frame and tattoo laden body (and head!). He is a bit of a plodder though and I feel will get found out if he moves up a level. He is around in a time however, where there are few decent heavyweights and could go on a make some decent money if he is prepared to have a go overseas. No matter what interest you have in boxing, everyone wants to see the big guys go at it – and they will ALWAYS pay for it!
Onto what everyone was here to see. Quite strangely the National anthems of both countries were played to an empty ring. I later found out that there were issues with Mundine’s gloves which delayed the fight by 20 minutes. Comically introduced to the crowd as “the greatest cross-over athlete in the history of boxing” Mundine has always been the king of self promotion. There is no question with what he has achieved in both rugby league and boxing to the levels he has succeeded, but I will never forgive him for ducking Joe Calzaghe constantly and then still continually claiming he was the best around!
The opening exchanges were very even. Even early on Mundine kept claiming he was being hit on the back of the head which was incredibly annoying. You could tell that the Belarussian was a come forward type that wasn’t overly flashy, with a decent, textbook style. Mundine looked busier, even though he probably wasn’t throwing as many punches.
In a new innovation – in what they term “open scoring”, the scores were announced to the crowd after the 4th and 8th rounds. I can see the positives and the negatives in this and I guess anything to eliminate the chances of fixing or corruption can only be a good thing. At the end of the 8th round it was officially all square – 1 judge had Mundine up by 2 rounds, one had Rabchenko up by 2 and the other had it as a tie. 2 judges then scored the last 4 rounds even, but crucially, the judge that scored it as a tie after 8 rounds, thought Mundine won all of the last 4 rounds. Now, I was there live and you get much different impressions than watching on TV. Mundine was blowing out of his arse after the 8th, and struggled to make much of an impression after that – although the crowd roaring when he landed any sort of punch must have been a factor! If ever there was a hometown decision – then this was it.
Mundine did get tagged hard, late in the 10th which forced him to grab Rabchenko’s waist and drive him across the ring, more in homage to his former sport than the noble art. But he survived as the bell rang out and that crucially gave him enough time to recover his senses. Both looked tired over the final 6 minutes though and when the bell came to end the fight I think most people around us thought the Belarussian had done enough!
Boxing is rife with stories like this. The old adage of when going away, having to knock your opponent out just to get a draw gnaws a bit close to the bone. In all fairness Rabchenko was unmarked, but didn’t quite do as much as he should have to win enough rounds. Mundine is slick and can take a punch. He is still a phenomenal athlete, but with his restricted weight he is simply never going to knock decent opponents over any more. At 39, and with the majority of sports, when your speed goes, it is the end of the line.
Underworld figure Mick Gatto, who is heading up Mundine’s “sponsorship and promotion” team is promising a big name next up for Mundine. He will be a mandatory challenger for the title; he may get a big name by not being a “danger man” for a title. For now, the legend that is The Man will continue on for the time being. One thing is for certain though; if a big name does come to town, there will be a massive crowd ready and waiting to see if he can do it again.
WBC SILVER LIGHT-MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE
ANTHONY MUNDINE d SERGEY RABCHENKO on POINTS (SPLIT DECISION)
115-113, 116-112, 113-115