Sport Boxing Mundine entering the lion’s den
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Mundine entering the lion’s den

Anthony Mundine fires a straight right
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Bagging Anthony Mundine could well be a national pastime.

‘The Man’ is happy to wear the black hat and a target on his back, running with a business model unintentionally pioneered by Jack Johnson, perfected by Muhammad Ali and used to most profitable effect by former featherweight champion Naseem Hamed.

The tactic is crude and very effective: big note yourself wherever possible, often with ridiculous hyperbole, and at all other times denigrate your opponent.

The result? Bums on seats, most of them hoping your latest challenger will be the one to deposit you on your backside.

Johnson, of course, never wanted to play the villain – the colour of his skin and the time of his rule ensured he was cast in the role his entire career, with people lining up to watch the latest ‘white hope’ try and take his heavyweight title.

It’s almost impossible to imagine a time when Muhammad Ali was reviled, but a large part of his audience appeal throughout his prime years was the question of whether his latest challenger would be the one to shut him up.

He taunted his opponents mercilessly in the lead-up to his fights, declaring himself the greatest of all time, and many Americans were angered by his decision to avoid induction into the armed forces.

Hamed’s adoption of the villain role, plus the phenomenal speed and concussive power he exhibited in his younger days, led to him being the best paid featherweight – a division at the lower end of boxing’s pay scale – of all time.

Mundine presents a conundrum: he never approached the success of those three men, yet shot his mouth just as loudly.

The reason for much of the flak Mundine takes goes deeper than his antics on talk shows and at press conferences.

So often in his professional career he has chosen the path of least resistance, fighting men far beneath him and refusing to seek out the toughest tests on offer.

Which makes his choice of American star ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley for his opponent next Wednesday night in Sydney so interesting.

Both Mosley, 42, and 38-year-old Mundine have faded so much in recent years that viewers may struggle to see them when they enter the ring.

At his peak Mosley was electricity, cutting a swathe through the lightweight and welterweight divisions en route to being considered, at one stage, the best boxer on the planet.

And the ghost of Mosley that enters the ring on Wednesday will be a more dangerous man than any Mundine has faced since his 2005 bout with Dane Mikkel Kessler.

Sure he has three losses and a draw from his past five fights, but the losses were against a pretty handy trio – Floyd Mayweather Jr, Manny Pacquiao and rising Mexican star Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, with none able to knock him out.

The fact he was able to stun Mayweather, regarded as the finest defensive boxer on the planet, puts him in very select company.

And Mundine’s bold, some would say maniacal, quest to come down in weight to 154lbs in his mid-to-late 30s has left him far less of a threat than he was in his super-middleweight pomp.

So, to Anthony Mudine we say, kudos.

The howls of derision when this bout was announced were loud, but people need to look past Mosley’s age and realise this is the boldest move ‘The Man’ has made in years.

Mosley’s hands are still fast, and at 154lbs he’ll be strong enough to render Mundine unconscious with one shot.

Antonio Tarver was 42 when he came to Sydney to knock out Danny Green in 2011.

If Mundine doesn’t fight smart, he’ll go down the same road as his former rival.

 

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