By Anthony Cocks
WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn was named Fighter of the Year at the Australian Boxing Hall of Fame gala ceremony in Melbourne over the weekend.
Horn shot to global fame with his July mugging of Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao in front of more than 51,000 people at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and an estimated 500 million people viewing on television around the world.
In his first title defence Horn staved off the challenge of English traveller Gary Corcoran stopping him in 11 last December.
The annual event held at the Pullman at the Park Hotel in Melbourne saw the induction of two-time world light heavyweight title challenger Paul “Hurricane” Briggs, Commonwealth middleweight champion Arthur Cripps and Australia’s leading boxing journalist Grantlee Kieza who has also cornered some of Australia’s greatest fighters including Jeff Fenech, Jeff Harding, Joe Bugner and Lovemore Ndou.
Horn was unable to travel to Melbourne to collect his award in person as he is in the midst of training camp for his multimillion-dollar fight against former undisputed junior welterweight champion Terrence “Bud” Crawford in Las Vegas on April 14.
“I’m so grateful to the Hall of Fame for this recognition,” he said. “I can’t get down to Melbourne because Crawford is the biggest test of my career and I can’t change my training program, but I am really proud to have received this.
“I beat Manny Pacquiao last year when hardly anyone believed in me and even though most of the critics are writing me off again, I’m confident I can beat Crawford in his backyard in America and shock the world once more.”
Other inductees included Commonwealth featherweight champion Bobby Dunne, pioneer “Gentleman” George Dawson who held an early version of the world welterweight title in the late 19th century and honorary international Fritz Holland who won two of his four fights against middleweight great Less Darcy during the World War I era. Promoter and host of the long-running KO Boxing Show on community television Peter Maniatis was awarded the Gus Mercurio Award for services to boxing.
FENECH PROTÉGÉ BROCK JARVIS ON FAST TRACK TO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GLORY
Jeff Fenech’s highly-touted bantamweight bomber Brock Jarvis 13-0 (12) logged another knockout win on Friday night with a third round KO of Hamson “Tiger” Lamandau 8-2-1 (5) of Indonesia for the WBC Asian Boxing Council title at Mediterranean House in Five Dock, Sydney.
The heavy-handed 20-year-old had Lamandau on the deck in the second round before scoring his twelfth career stoppage at 2:58 of the third round.
“Hamson Lamandou did not surprise me as I knew he was a big puncher,” said Jarvis. “He hit me with some big clean shots but because of my hard preparation I knew I was going to stop him.”
Despite only being extended the distance once in his thirteen-fight pro career Jarvis insists he has the conditioning to hear the final bell if and when it’s required.
“Every time I step in the ring I’m prepared to go the distance,” he said. “I would never overlook any opponent because it only takes one punch to finish a fight.
“I believe timing is power. If you catch your opponent at the right time, anyone can be hurt.”
The Marrickville native has had an unconventional start to his pro career. While most boxers won’t step foot outside of their own hometown early in their careers, three of Jarvis’s first four fights took place on the road.
Even his pro debut took place in Bangkok, Thailand, where the 5-foot-7 Jarvis also trains for his fights to ensure he can get the best possible sparring in and around his weight class.
Speaking to News Corp’s Grantlee Kieza recently, Fenech said: “Thailand has so many star fighters in the light weights. Brock’s in there punching on with world champions every day and he is developing into a really great prospect.”
The three-time world champion and International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee has said that he expects Jarvis to be ready for a world title shot by the end of 2018, but Jarvis is happy to leave all the planning to his coach.
“The goals are set by my trainer,” he said. “He’s the boss, not me. I hope I can get another six fights in this year because I really enjoy staying active, just gotta keep injury free.”
The master and apprentice have a unique relationship. Fenech is lifelong friends with Jarvis’s uncle Pat Jarvis, a former rugby league enforcer who, as a Newtown cop in the early ’80s, who helped steer Fenech away from the streets and into the gym when the young Marrickville Mauler appeared headed down the wrong path as a juvenile.
Now the wheel has turned full circle and Fenech is performing the role of mentor to the younger Jarvis.
“I met Jeff when I was 16,” said Jarvis. “He had a good relationship with my uncle. I did some one-off training with Jeff until he decided that he would train me. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because Jeff is without doubt my favourite fighter of all time.”
Powerful and quick-fisted with an enviable aggressive streak, the young Jarvis is like a sponge in the gym, soaking up the fight knowledge that Fenech imparts on him during every training session.
“Jeff is more of a teacher than a trainer,” said Jarvis. “He really shows you how to do things and why, whereas other trainers will just tell you. He knows the sport better than anyone, I believe. He has a real boxing brain.
“Also there are no short cuts with Jeff. It’s very old school training and we stick to a strict routine that never changes. He really pushes you to the limit.”
If Jarvis continues to learn and improve, there is no reason why this exciting prospect can’t be making noise on the world stage.
And if Fenech has his way, that will be happening sooner rather than later.
JAYDE MITCHELL RETURNS SERVE TO BILAL AKKAWY, CALLS OUT ANTHONY MUNDINE
World-rated super middleweight contender Jayde Mitchell had some choice words for local rival Bilal Akkawy on the Fight Call Out television program on Fox Sports on Thursday night before throwing down the gauntlet to Anthony Mundine.
Knockout king Akkawy, who defeated former world titleholder Giovanni De Carolis at Club Punchbowl by unanimous decision on February 24, questioned Mitchell’s heart for the fight after his recent victory.
“If he wants to grow some guts we can do it at the Star,” said Akkawy 17-0-1 (14) in the ring after the fight. “Star City is a big venue. He said he didn’t want to come to Punchbowl, he didn’t like the crowd or something. We’ll do it at the Star in March, eight weeks, grow some guts, take the fight. We’re offering you good money, we offered you a hundred grand last time and you still refused the fight. Grow some balls and come to Sydney.”
Mitchell returned serve in a pre-recorded segment on the popular Australian television program.
“Grow some balls? I take it you’re talking about me,” said Mitchell, 15-1 (8). “After a performance like last night you’re going to stand in the middle of the ring and say I’ve got no balls? Mate, you’re not even the best super middleweight in your gym. So you were offered the fight in Melbourne on the Fight Call Out card, on the biggest platform we got at the moment, and you guys knocked it back. We’re the ones who put it out there and you’re saying I’ve got no balls?
“I’ll tell you what, for whatever reason you don’t want to fight me on the Fight Call Out Card, that’s good. There’s one other fighters out there that I would love to fight. This man has carried the sport for the past fifteen years. And that’s Anthony “The Man” Mundine. Hey Choc, if you’re waiting for Horn, I’m here brother. I will make middleweight, okay? I will make middleweight. That is the fight I want, Mundine v J-Mitch, Fight Call Out, what do you say? Let’s get behind it. Let’s do it.”
Mitchell will first have to get past Argentinean puncher Ariel Alejandro Zampedri 9-2 (7) on March 17 at the Melbourne Pavilion where he will be the main support bout to former IBF middleweight champion Sam Soliman who will be competing for the IBF International title against Perth’s Wes Capper.
The 42-year-old Mundine 48-8 (28) is ranked WBO #14 at middleweight after defeating Tommy Browne by second round knockout in January to claim the WBO Oriental title.
QAMIL BALLA RETURNS TEN MONTHS AFTER GEORGE KAMBOSOS JR LOSS
Quick-fisted lightweight Qamil "Golden Boy" Balla 11-1-1 (5) returns to the ring this weekend against Adam Diu Abdulhamid 11-4 (4) in his first fight back since losing to WBA #5 George Kambosos Jr on the undercard of WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker’s inaugural title defence against Razvan Cojanu in Manukau City, New Zealand last May.
Balla will be joining his younger brother Ibrahim on the card dubbed "Westside Rumble" that will take place this Sunday afternoon at the Grand Star Reception Centre in Altona North in Melbourne’s western suburbs. The fight against Abdulhamid will be contested over eight rounds at a catchweight of 137-pounds.
Balla is already close to fighting weight but his trainer Lim Jeka will be monitoring the scales closely this week to ensure he doesn’t lose too much mass before the official weigh-in against the thick-set Filipino who often fights at 140-pounds.
"With the catchweight it’s easier to maintain weight because I can eat a bit more food," said Balla after an open workout at The Gym Yarraville on Saturday where he cruised through six rounds on the pads with coach Jeka.
"I feel a bit more energetic and that’s probably been one of the best and easiest parts about this training camp."
Balla, who finished off the sparring phase of his camp with three days at the Bondi Boxing Club in Sydney, says it has been one of the best training camps of his career.
"That was awesome," said Balla, who did a combined 20 rounds on the Thursday and Saturday with a day off on Friday. "Hats off to those guys, they were really hospitable. Great sparring and it was just good to spar some guys who were top level.
“I sparred with Darragh Foley, Gearoid Clancy, all the Irish guys up there, it was good.
"Besides, I mix in really well with them, I’ve got the red hair!” he laughed.
Not much is known about Abdulhamid, who is coming off a close 12 round points decision loss to undefeated Thai junior welterweight Apinan Kongsong in Bangkok last August.
"[I’ve seen] just whatever is on YouTube, that’s about it," admitted Balla, who split a pair of fights with current WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn in the amateurs..
"He’s fairly strong, but it’s the fight game, man. Big, tall, strong; it doesn’t really matter. When you get in there, everyone has to do the business."
The last time Balla threw punches in anger he was on the losing end of a 10-round points decision to highly-touted 135-pounder George Kambosos Jr. Balla started well, confusing Kambosos by fighting out of the southpaw stance. But by the third round the flamboyant Kambosos had found his rhythm and was able to catch Balla with his hands down with uppercuts, jabs and right hands. As the fight progressed Balla was relying increasingly on his handspeed and power to turn the fight in his favour, but the moment never came. Adding insult to injury, the flamboyant Sydneysider dropped Balla in the tenth and final round.
Since then the 28-year-old from Altona North has had some time off to reflect on the loss and digest what happened. He has now rededicated himself to the sport.
"Every single month that went by I was itching and itching and itching to get back in the ring," he said. "I mean it’s good to have a break and chill out with the family, but as a fighter you’re always thinking about the next fight.
"And I don’t ever stop thinking about it.”
During his spell from the prize ring Balla has had plenty of time to reflect on what went wrong in the Kambosos fight that he lost by unanimous decision.
“I’m the type of guy who takes everything as a positive, so I can’t sort of wallow in my own sorrows or anything," he explained.
"I see what happened, I think I kind of underestimated him and went in there a bit too heated. I was on tilt, which kind of played into his hands a little bit as I’m more of a boxer anyway.
"But my hat goes off to him, he beat me fair and square. If anything I’m just going to take it as a positive and a learning experience.”
Part of that learning experience was coming to terms with the pressure of fighting in the main support bout on a big card like the first WBO heavyweight title defence of Joseph Parker in front of a parochial crowd of Kiwis.
"At the time, because I’m a real confident guy, I didn’t think it was getting to me but the overall experience, with so much riding on it, I had so much on my shoulders,” admitted Balla.
“But it’s just another fight you know, that’s how I want to take it. That’s what I think I’ve learned from that big experience. It doesn’t matter how big the occasion is, it’s just a fight."
If everything goes to plan for Hosking Promotions there will be up to three more cards in Altona North this year to build the Balla Boys profile and brand in the heartland of the western suburbs.
Balla has a clear view of where he wants to be by the end of the year.
"I know exactly where I want to be," he said. "Undefeated, that’s for sure. And on our way to what every other boxer in the world wants, on our way to a world title shot."
As for future opponents, he is happy to leave this in the capable hands of his experienced manager Mike Altamura.
“I’ll take on any and all comers, man," he said. "I just take it as my management goes. Mike [Altamura] is the man and he picks everyone for me. I’m happy to go with that, I trust him completely."
NEW OPPONENT FOR IBRAHIM BALLA
Meanwhile featherweight Ibrahim "La Bala" Balla 13-1 (7) has had a late change of opponent after Norasing Kokietgym 22-0-1 (15) of Thailand was forced to withdraw from the WBA Oceania title clash after sustaining a hand injury.
Capable Filipino Jessie Cris Rosales 21-1-1 (8) will replace the former Thai kickboxer and may even be a bigger challenge than the original opponent.
The 26-year-old from Cebu City in the Philippines sees the fight as an important opportunity to get his career back on track after losing his last fight to formidable former two-division world champion Jhonny Gonzalez in Chihuahua, Mexico last July.
"This is very important," Rosales told his local newspaper SunStar Cebu. "This will really be a big help to my boxing career. I want to show how much I improved since my loss to Jhonny Gonzalez."
With 10 more pro bouts under his belt than Balla the former WBO Asia Pacific Youth featherweight champion knows what it takes to win at this level and isn’t planning on taking any unnecessary risks against the 27-year-old former Olympian.
"I have never stopped training since November," said Rosales. "I think I have a huge chance. But I won’t take any chances because he’s an Olympian."
MICHAEL ZERAFA REPLACES ANTHONY BUTTIGIEG AGAINST ADAM HARPER IN COMMONWEALTH TITLE FIGHT
Anthony Buttigieg 13-0 (3) had been forced to withdraw from his March 16 Commonwealth title defence against Brit Adam Harper 8-0 after sustaining an eye injury.
"Due to a worrying eye injury I’ve had to make the difficult decision to step aside and not fight on March 16," the junior middleweight said on Facebook over the weekend.
"I feel like I’ve let people down but health is much more important in this game. There’s no doubt that this sport can be a damn cruel one but I’ll be back when the time is right."
The Buttigieg versus Harper fight was scheduled to be the main support bout on the undercard of the 12 round light heavyweight clash between WBC #6 Blake Caparello and WBA #9 Isaac Chilemba for the WBA Oceania and WBC International titles on the Big Time Boxing show at the Melbourne Pavilion on March 16.
Harper, who is already in Australia, has been matched with Michael Zerafa 22-2 (13) who was scheduled to fight the following night at the same venue on another Big Time Boxing show headlined by former IBF middleweight champion Sam Soliman versus Wes Capper for the vacant IBF International title.
The Zerafa-Harper fight will now be the main support bout for Caparello versus Chilemba.
Said Zerafa: "For me I’m always 110% ready to fight whoever is in my way, so having my opponent changed at such short notice doesn’t really bother me as my training is always up to scratch.
"Respect to him for agreeing to take the fight. I’ve seen a lot of him and know he has a great work rate and is a pressure fighter but again I’m a different fighter with power, speed, angles and a high work rate also."
WBO #8 junior welterweight Leonardo Zappavigna 37-3 (27) is slated to face WBO #3 and WBA #4 Alex Saucedo 26-0 (16) on the undercard of Jeff Horn’s WBO welterweight title defence against Terrence Crawford on April 14 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The winner of this fight will be well positioned to challenge for the WBO 140-pound title that is set to be contested between Terry Flanagan and Maurice Hooker on the undercard of Billy Joe Saunders’ WBO middleweight title defence against Martin Murray at the O2 Arena in London on April 14.
Junior middleweight Tim Tszyu 7-0 (5) returns to the ring against undefeated Kiwi Reuben Webster 8-0 at the St George Motor Boat Club in San Souci, Sydney on April 8. Tszyu is, of course, the son of former undisputed junior welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu who unified the WBC, WBA and IBF titles against Sharmba Mitchell and Zab Judah in 2001. It will be the younger Tszyu’s first fight since claiming the vacant WBC Asian Boxing Council Continental title over 10 rounds against Wade Ryan, but not before going down in the opening stanza. Tszyu managed to fight six times last year despite sustaining an ankle injury on a 20km run that forced the cancellation of his scheduled fight against
Emmanuel Carlos on Hosking Promotions’ Punches at the Park V card last August.
The feud between Renold Quinlan 12-2 (8) and Damien Hooper 13-1 (8) will finally be settled on the undercard to Dennis Hogan vs Jimmy Kilrain Kelly at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on April 7. Speaking to his local paper the Macleay Argus this week, Quinlan said: “I’ve wanted to fight Hooper for a long time, he’s ran his mouth a few times and now I will get the chance to shut him up.” The already-stacked undercard of the DDP Sports show features a heavyweight clash between Herman Ene Purcell and Hunter Sam for the Queensland state title, the debut of AIBA world championship bronze medallist Joe Goodall, talented welterweight prospect Nathan Webber up against Steven Maxwell and more. With four more fights yet to be added, this is shaping up as one of the best cards of the year and we’re still only in the first quarter.
Fightcard Promotions is putting on an eight-fight show at the Chelsea Heights Hotel in Melbourne this Saturday night that features a number of talented up-and-coming boxers. Middleweight Emmanuel Carlos 6-0 (4) of Chelsea Heights will square off against “Smoking” Joe Corner 5-2-1 (3) of Hobart while at super featherweight Jai Alexander 6-0 (4)of Mornington battles Brazilian banger Isaias Santos Sampaio 21-13 (21). Tasmanian cruiserweight champion Jayden “Plugger” Nichols 5-0-1 (1) will also be on the card.
Commonwealth welterweight champion Kris George 13-1 (7) returns to the ring for the first time this year when he takes on Argentina’s Maximiliano Leonel Scalzone 16-1-1 (12) at Rumours International in Toowoomba. It will be George’s first time in the ring since defending the Commonwealth crown he won against Cameron Hammond against “Gelignite” Jack Brubaker last October. The Brendon Smith promotion will also feature Jack Asis vs Rivan Cesaire at welterweight, Brent Rice vs Brendan Saunders at lightweight and Jamie Hilt vs Will Sands at welterweight on the eight-fight card.