Mouth Mundine Steps Up In Class

I once held Anthony Mundine in unrelenting contempt. His likening himself to one of my heroes, Muhammad Ali, both as a great boxing champion and national black leader, inspired scorn and ridicule. Whatever his prowess as a rugby league player, he was unproven as a boxer and clearly way out of Ali’s league as a wit…well, let’s be mercilessly honest – what wit? The guy gave no indication of being anything but a bighead with more bone than brain betwixt left and right temple.

Then came the fight against Danny Green. I joined the thousands in Perth that night queued up outside pubs to watch the gladiators on the big screens. Parochial as Perth is, the crowds were baying as one for Mundine’s blood. The hope and expectation was that Green would shut The Mouth up and sit his arrogant arse on the canvas well inside the distance.

Instead, Mundine turned the baying down to a shocked murmur a few rounds in with an exhibition of nimble boxing skills that far outclassed Green, whose quest for glorious victory and the keys to Dullsville became a grim mission to remain upright for the duration of the fight. Mundine made him look like a backstreet brawler whose time had been and gone…or never was.

Even more surprisingly, Mundine was gracious in victory. The crowds, stunned and chastened, dispersed in doleful order. I doubt I was alone in my sense that I had lost one of my favourite Aussie punching bags. I hadn’t changed my mind about Mundine The Mouth, but Mundine The Boxer commanded respect.

It seemed a no-brainer to me that Danny Green would announce his retirement after Mundine creamed him. But that was not to be, and who am I to question his judgement? He’s ended up vindicating his decision by going on to take the crown as WBA light heavyweight champion of the world.

Exactly how impressed we should be is open to question. There seems today to be an endless parade of crowns for the taking in the arena of world title boxing, with so many boxing federations, organisations and other governing bodies jostling for ultimate credibility that one wonders how one determines which world title is the real world title. From all accounts, the title-holder Green deposed, Stipe Drews of Croatia, was a squib who spent the fight cowering and dancing out of Green’s reach, throwing hardly a punch back at his pursuer.

It seems the hype is building for a return bout between Green and Mundine. Once the purses are high enough for both fighters, it will be on. That appears to be only a matter of time, with the taunts flying between east and west as the boys light up the fires of publicity.

If, when, this rematch eventuates, I’d bet on it being the last one, with Mundine elegantly despatching to history any illusions Green might still be under that he can match it with the man who imaginatively calls himself The Man. There is no doubt that Mundine is far more skilled as a boxer. Green’s only chance at victory would be to steal it with a single, huge, perfectly placed, perfectly connecting king hit. Mundine, one would think, is too astute, too fast, too good to allow a big Green wind-up past his defence.

But what do I know? I’m only a casual spectator of boxing, drawn in by the elemental drama and paradoxes that make this sport so compelling: you know – the brutality and the grace, the brawler and the boxer, the blood and the glory…that sort of thing.

I do know something of words and wit, though. Enough, at least, to award the pre-rematch slagging off contest of the last few days to Mundine.

Green: “Choc is a bit like an ex-wife who is still screaming out after getting a big pay-out… He is still throwing insults after a getting a big pay-out. I have moved on, I have remarried, I have got the world championship – I have got bigger and better things to think about.”

Well Danny boy, you managed to extend the metaphor all the way through three sentences, but was it worth the effort?

Mundine: “I already whipped him once, I’ll spank him again. They may think he’s gay. He might be in the Mardi Gras this week because I’m sick of tapping that arse.”

You gotta admit, that’s funny. Round to Mundine on points.

You have to wonder whether either of these bozos have the mental hardware to sustain interest in their verbal jousting all the way to the Big Fight, though. Let’s hope they get the bucks sorted out and the date fixed soon.

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