Inspiration for Anthony Mundine came from a variety of sources. People like boxer Lionel Rose, cricketer Eddie Gilbert, musician Yothu Yindi, comedian Ernie Dingo and athlete Cathy Freeman, all drove Mundine towards success.
Mundine said that he wants to stand alongside those big names in the history books. Now that his career has officially comes to a close, how will he be remembered?
The boxer’s career provides dinner table conversation for many households, not least for the way he conducts an interview. When you think of Mundine, you think confidence. His bravado drips through every conversation like marinade on home-cooked chicken. Impossible to remove and you either love it or hate it.
He never wavered from this attitude, right down to the interviews before his final professional bout last month. “He’s done,” Mundine said of his last opponent Jeff Horn. “His 15 minutes [of fame] is about to be up.”
There are those who hate this confidence; it doesn’t sit well with a population that readily slashes tall poppies. But Horn only needed 96 seconds to bring Mundine down to another level.
No matter what you think of Mundine, it’s troubling to watch a man with so much stamina and determination end his career in that way—a career that spanned 18-years after a very respectable seven years in the NRL.
Mundine has dedicated his life to professional sport. Something must have pushed him to submit his body to so much torment for so long.
What do you have to do to be on the same level as Freeman, Rose and Gilbert? All three had single defining moments. Freeman overcame enormous pressure to do what she was expected and win the 400m sprint at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Rose became the first Indigenous Australian to win a boxing world title in 1968. And Gilbert had an impactful fast bowling career, hallmarked by taking the wicket of the great Don Bradman.
Did Mundine have a similar moment?
Fans might point to the 2003 World super middleweight title win over Antwun Echols. Three years after leaving the NRL, Mundine was vindicated in Sydney.
Mundine might point to the clash with Danny Green in 2006 that filled Aussie Stadium in Sydney. Not only was it an impressive unanimous decision victory for Mundine, but he also achieved another goal with that moment.
The man had a public purpose from the moment he left the NRL. Firstly, he wanted to be involved with a sport that had a global audience, which rugby league has struggled to attain. Secondly, he wanted to change the face of the sport in Australia.
“Boxing was dead,” Mundine claimed in a retrospective interview before last month’s fight. “Kostya Tszyu was on his way out. They were fighting in RSL clubs. I brought life back into the sport.”
He told his father and coach Tony that he wanted to fill stadiums. With years of boxing under his belt before signing his first NRL contract, Mundine had the mouth to draw in crowds, and the talent to keep them for the night.
The final bout on November 30th wasn’t a fitting end to a dedicated career. His critics may well have put down the tall poppy scythe as Mundine revealed his respect for professional sport, for the higher purpose, in his summary of the Horn fight.
“Jeff proved tonight he’s the better man,” Mundine said.
“That’s the next generation, man. I was ready. I was prepared well. It’s just boxing, you get caught sometimes.”
By Keiran Deck