By Anthony Cocks
In a battle of veterans, former world title challenger Tommy “The Titan” Browne 35-6-2 (13) will square up against former world titleholder Anthony “Choc” Mundine 47-8 (27) for the vacant WBO Oriental middleweight title at the Star City Hotel & Casino in Sydney in the second installment of Johnny Lewis’ Ultimate Fight Night on Wednesday 17 January.
Both Mundine and Browne have competed in many different weight classes throughout their fifteen-plus year careers.
For Mundine – who began as a super middleweight and picked up the vacant WBA 168-pound title against Antwun Echols in 2003 – this has included moving down to 160 pounds and a lengthy campaign at junior middleweight where he had mixed results. Most recently, he competed at cruiserweight in his rematch with local rival Danny Green at the Adelaide Oval last February in what was technically a cruiserweight bout – Mundine weighed in at 175½ pounds to Green’s 182½.
Browne’s movement through the weight classes has been more traditional. The 5-foot-11 Browne turned pro as a wiry super featherweight and boiled himself down to 126-pounds for national, regional and world title fights. As a 21-year-old the former WBC Youth featherweight champion travelled to Seoul, South Korea in January 2005 to challenge WBC featherweight world champion In-Jin Chi, lasting the 12-round distance under the grinding pressure of the experienced champion. Later the same year he would meet up with WBA 126-pound champion Chris John at Panthers World of Entertainment in the Sydney suburb of Penrith, lasting 10 rounds before retiring on his stool.
In 2008 a TKO6 loss to then-rising junior welterweight prospect Leonardo Zappavigna for the IBF Pan Pacific title precipitated a five-year retirement from the sport. When he returned to the ring in 2013 it was as a middleweight. Since then, Browne has bounced between the 154 and 160-pound divisions.
“Yes, I have put on a few kilos since 2005,” admits Browne. “I had a couple of years away from the sport and as I got a bit older, I naturally gained that extra weight in muscle. With my height and at my age now, I’m very comfortable at this weight.
“I’m a natural 154-pound fighter, I make the weight limit easy. The weight is good. I feel I am strong in this division and I still have good hand-speed with the power.”
Mundine remains the most well-known name in Australian boxing, largely due to his high profile former career as a professional rugby league player in the NRL that he successfully parlayed into pugilistic notoriety in his native country. When Mundine made his professional boxing debut in 2000 in an eight-round contest against Kiwi Gerrard Zohs, the fight was broadcast nationally on pay-per-view.
The bout against Browne will be the first Mundine fight not shown on pay-per-view locally.
“You can’t take away what Anthony Mundine has achieved in his sporting career,” says Browne. “His name is out there for all reasons, good and bad. This fight could make my name grow here in Australia and around the world. I’ve been fighting now for almost two years at 154-pounds so my body has adjusted well. With Anthony moving up and down weight classes, time will tell how that affects the body.”
At 42, Mundine is noticeably slower on his feet than he was in his prime, but he still retains the quick hands that made him a nightmare for many boxers in the mid-2000s. Browne believes that he can more than match it with Mundine is this department.
“They say he has fast hands but so do I,” says Browne. “I’m a better fighter than him right now and on January 17th, Australia will see that.”
The 34-year-old Browne has trained for this fight throughout the Christmas and New Year period in his hometown of Sydney. With many boxers out of the gym during the holiday period, Browne was forced to rotate sparring partners throughout his camp.
“We were changing sparring partners throughout the camp because of the timing, but mixing it up with the different style of fighters has been good,” says Browne. “Some of the guys in our gym helped out by training through the break.”
Nine days out from the fight he moved his camp to Dunedin, New Zealand where he will put the finishing touches on his preparation. This move is as much about focusing on the fight as it is about the training itself.
“All the hard work was done back home in Campbelltown,” says Browne. “This last week in New Zealand is my last hard week of preparation. Time to just focus on boxing and my training. Pretty much clear the head and leave all the distractions back at home.
“I have a busy lifestyle at home with a young family and this is a break and rest from all that. I would say being away from my family close to the fight is [the only] difference from previous fights.”
Browne has been carrying an extra burden in the ring ever since tragedy struck his family in September 2015.
Tommy’s younger brother “Dynamite” Davey Browne Jr 22-2-1 (8) was facing Filipino Carlo Magali, 18-7-3 (8) at the time, for the vacant IBF Pan Pacific super featherweight title at the Ingleburn RSL in Sydney. Going into the 12th round, Davey was leading the fight by one, two and five points on the three judges’ scorecards. All he needed to do was hang on until the final bell.
Davey Browne was knocked out cold in the 12th and final round. He was rushed by paramedics to Liverpool Hospital where he slipped into a coma and placed on life support. He never recovered and passed away four days later.
Davey Browne left behind a wife and two young children.
“Losing my brother has had a huge impact on me, my family and our friends,” says Browne. “Words can’t explain the hurt and pain. A big piece of my heart is missing. Davey was boxing to provide a better lifestyle for his family, just like me. If I can do that, I’m sure I’ll make him proud.”
Browne, who fought on the same card as his brother that fateful night, says he is driven to succeed to honour Davey’s name.
“The whole of Australia will see my hand raised on January 17th, victorious,” says Browne.