Imagine devoting your life to the realisation of a dream, then achieving it – heroically and against all the odds – in a foreign, strife-torn land.
Then imagine being told your accomplishment meant nothing.
That’s the story of Australian heavyweight boxer Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne.
Last March, Browne journeyed to Chechnya to fight World Boxing Association heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev.
After a hellish sixth round, in which he was cut and knocked down, Browne rose to stop Chagaev with a brutal barrage of his own in round 10 to become Australia’s first world heavyweight champion.
But a week later the dream became a nightmare – woken at 3am in his suburban Perth home by his phone to be told a post-fight urine test had turned up traces of the banned steroid clenbuterol.
That trip to Grozny a year ago both defines and haunts Browne.
The agony and ecstasy of that trip has been documented in a new book by Graham Clark, The World Champion That Never Was: The Story of Lucas Browne.
The title is apt.
Browne was stripped of his belt and, even though he has since been exonerated of the clenbuterol charge. It was never given back.
His name has been stricken from the record books – and it hurts.
“I’ve got 11 belts on my mantle, ranging from nothing belts to Australian titles, Commonwealth titles,” Browne told The New Daily.
“The one thing that’s missing is the world title that I legitimately won.
“People still say ‘you’re the champ, we all believe you’ but technically – going down in history, and in actual fact – no, I’m not.
“I can be happy with the performance, 100 per cent happy, but unfortunately I was completely and utterly stripped of any glory.”
Although his title was not reinstated, he was granted another shot at the same world heavyweight title – against American Shannon Briggs.
Complicating matters for Browne was a second positive drug test last year.
He signed up to the World Boxing Council’s ‘clean boxing program’, enabling drug testers to visit him at his home at any time.
Browne tested positive for ostarine, a muscle and bone strengthener he unwittingly ingested when he changed his pre-workout supplement while preparing for the Briggs fight.
The difficulties he has faced have seen Browne exposed to the dark side of social media.
He released an expletive-laden video last month to announce he had had enough of the abuse and was closing his Twitter account.
Although he has since reversed that stance, he said he still copped plenty of flak.
“For an entire year, I just got three to four messages a day saying ‘cheat’, ‘drug cheat’, and all the abuse and swearing that goes with it,” Browne said.
“I’ve been back on Twitter for about three weeks and I’ve blocked probably 600-700 people.”
The 37-year-old is now in limbo – keeping himself busy with training in Perth, while waiting for the phone to ring.
Browne said he was a month away from being fit enough to tackle the world’s best.
“I turn 38 in April – I just want to fight,” he said.
“We’re leaving it in the hands of Ricky Hatton [renowned British boxer, who is retired], who is still technically my promoter for another few months.
“He said he’s onto it and going to come back to me with something, whether it’s in Australia or the UK – either way, it’s a fight.”
The World Champion That Never Was: The Story of Lucas Browne is on sale now and can be bought by clicking here.