I had the privilege of being part of boxing history last week. I was there at the Green-Mundine fight, surely the most anticipated boxing match in Australian sporting history.
It was a truly great fight - great to watch: a great display of athleticism and good sportsmanship, and just great for the sport of boxing.
It was a great match. And yet it was more than just a boxing match too: it was a watershed moment in Australian history.
This fight had so many dimensions to it: it was the East Coast of Australia v the West Coast; the brash, young Aboriginal v the quiet, white Aussie homeboy; it was boxer v brawler; speed v power; two extremes of Australian society and yet, as the Aboriginal elder who introduced the fight put it so beautifully, they were “two of this land’s favourite sons”.
The build-up to this event had been like nothing ever seen before in this country. It started years ago, when Green’s one-time trainer, Jeff Fenech, challenged the cocky Redfern boy to a million-dollar winner-take-all showdown.
Mundine did not seem keen to take up the challenge. Why would he be? He was a young rising star in the world of pugilism, and Danny Green was offering to step in and cut short what was looking like a promising career.
And yet the Green-Mundine question would not go away. Every time “the Man” entered the ring from that point on, the after-fight question would always be, “Yeah, but how would he have gone if that had been Danny Green in the opposite corner?”
To illustrate the power of this question, let me tell you one of my memories from two years ago.
It was April 21, 2004, and I was standing outside Ashkelon Prison in Israel, waiting for my mate, Morde Vanunu to be released. I was in the middle of a riot, as thousands of local antagonists screamed for Vanunu’s blood, and a far smaller contingent of peace activists, including myself and one other Australian, pressed in, along with machine-gun toting police, media and an enormous army of prison officials, desperately trying cordon off an exit route from the prison.
In the middle of the chaos, as we waited and waited for my mate to show his face, what do you think was the main topic of debate between myself, the other Australian, and some of our interested Jewish peace-activist friends? You guessed it. We were locked in heated debate over would win the Green-Mundine fight.
And I must be honest and say that at that stage I was backing Green.
As much as I liked Anthony Mundine as a person, and counted him as a mate, at the time I just didn’t think he’d be able to stand up to the power of the Green right hand.
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