When Manuer Matet (4-1, 2 KOs) makes the walk for his ANBF Australian Lightweight title bout on April 6, there will be more at stake than a win or a loss.
It might even be said that walking away with the gold plated, emerald green belt is a secondary focus.
There are different colors that dominate and drive his psyche. These are the six that form the flag of South Sudan that the 26 year old proudly drapes across his shoulders each time he prepares to compete.
In truest form, the flag is a badge of honor and a symbol of Matet’s past, present and future journey.
To him, he is more than an East African refugee aspiring to achieve great feats as an athlete. Rather, his objective is to serve as a role model for those that share a common story. To show the youth within Australia’s South Sudanese community that greatness is not defined by one’s background.
“I came here when I was 14, so I can never forget my country and my people,” Matet told The Inner Sanctum.
“I love Australia. I’m an Australian, but I’ve got to put my country and community first, to try and inspire all of the young kids from my community. I want to represent both countries, South Sudan and Australia.”
“Anyone can make it. As long as you put your mind to something, you can make it. No matter where you are.”
Any in ring achievements then, should be viewed in this context. Of course, a level of personal satisfaction will come any time the fighter known as ‘The Matrix’ is victorious.
This will pale in comparison to the feeling of collective achievement from his success, though. Championship belts are not worn by Matet alone, but around the collective waist of his community.
Wins then, are as much theirs as they are is his own.
“I’m doing this for the people, I’m not doing it for me,” Matet proudly told.
“If it was for me, I would be somewhere with my friends, hanging out with other people. This is for my community and all the fans that are going to turn up.
“If I can say that I’m an Australian champion, they’re all going to know that ‘if you can do it, we can do it. So we’re all going to have a go and see where we can get.’”
Head trainer Rodney Williams attests to this. Having witnessed Matet’s development through the amateur system and transition to professional boxing first hand, he has seen an incredible amount of growth.
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He has also seen resilience on the part of his pupil.
Due to complications regarding passport and citizenship, Matet was left unable to compete in elite amateur pathway events. Despite representing New South Wales and winning numerous titles, structural barriers meant he was forced to miss the trial tournaments that were pivotal for 2020 Olympic selection.
Yet Matet remained resolute, unwavering in his conviction to become a force for good to those around him.
“It’s not that he never wanted to represent Australia, it’s just that the Australian Government never helped him get a passport or his citizenship in order to represent this country. That’s all that is,” Williams said.
“If people helped Manuer get his [passport and citizenship], we might’ve seen better things. But, we don’t all have luck in life.
“He didn’t turn pro because of that, though. In order to support himself and his family, and in order to be a role model within his community, he decided to turn pro.”
A key part of this relationship between trainer and student has been a dedication to hard work.
Coupled with the flag of his homeland, Matet is proud to wear the number 48, the insignia of his home gym, Blacktown PCYC.
Found in the heart of Sydney’s Western suburbs, the gym is very much a product of a rugged area. The working class surrounds have rubbed off on the work ethic of those within it’s stable.
As a result, the surging pugilist feels a sense of connection, pride and belonging.
“The 48, that’s our gym, that’s where we train at Blacktown PCYC,” Matet said.
“We’re from Western Sydney and for us, we don’t give anything, we work for it. Western Sydney, work for everything.
On the surface, it appears that hard work will be needed come April 6.
Standing in the opposite corner in their No Limit Boxing main event will be Tokyo 2020 bronze medalist, Harry Garside (1-1, 1 KO). The Olympic standout recently capitalised on the momentum gained from the games with a successful pro debut in December.
For this reason, it appears that Matet will enter as the underdog, but he has full belief in his ability to upset the applecart. With all of the attention centered on his high profile opponent, the Dreamtime Fighters alum will enter the contest free of any burden.
In fact he remains stoic, comforted by the knowledge gained in his five professional bouts thus far. As exhibited by his last fight, an action-packed six round bout with Jye Lane Taylor (3-2, 1 KO), he is also comfortable in the heat of battle.
To this end, a confident Matet envisions victory in dominant fashion on the night.
“It doesn’t seem like a tough fight to me,” he emphatically concluded.
“He’s got the crowd and I’ve got a crowd as well. Most importantly, he’s got the pressure on him and I’m just a free man.
“It’s going to be me and him in the ring and that’s all. I’m taking what’s mine.
“It’s a good fight for me. I see Harry doing the same thing, trying to sit down [on his punches] or going backwards. He won’t be able to sit down in front of me. If he sit’s down, I’ll bang him. If he runs, I’ll walk him down. I don’t see a way for him winning or doing anything.
“He’s new to this game and I know these things already.
“We’re not going 10 rounds, that’s the thing. I’m going to knock him out.”
No Limit Boxing’s card headlined by Garside vs Matet goes down on April 6 and can be viewed on Kayo Sports, here.
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