With George Kambosos Jnr’s incredible World Lightweight title victory fresh in the minds of fight fans, attention turned to an incredibly packed night of Australian boxing on Saturday, December 4.
Across two shows by rival promoters, ACE Boxing Group and Tasman Fighters, the country’s best and brightest were on display, with all taste buds catered for.
From bright futures to the clubhouse leader for domestic fight of the year, each card was not short for action and storylines to dissect. Here are our picks for the biggest talking points to emerge from this weekend’s action.
Masson and Flanagan turn in fight of the year
Australian boxing has produced some incredible fights this year, but ACE Boxing Group’s main event between Cruiserweights, Floyd Masson (11-0, 7 KOs) and Mark ‘Bam Bam’ Flanagan (25-9, 18 KOs) has eclipsed them all.
When the final bell rang out at the Eatons Hill Hotel, all in attendance and those tuning in at home knew that they had just played witness to an instant classic.
Flanagan opened the bout in complete control, unloading on a thunderous counter right hand to drop his foe in the first round. Not to be deterred, Masson reloaded in the following rounds and answered back with his own knockdown in the fourth, by way of a body shot.
Though it seemed close to impossible, the pair somehow increased their volume in the second half of the fight. Each time the southpaw Masson seemingly rocked Flanagan with a straight left, the two-time World title challenger fired back with a flurry of punches to both body and head.
In a drama fuelled contest, both fighters gave an ounce of their heart and soul in an effort to attain the win. Highlighting their intent, the pair took turns in calling each other forward to throw caution to the wind on separate occasions in round eight.
Ultimately, it was Masson who walked away with a majority decision victory (94-94, 96-92 x2). With the result, he remains undefeated and is now the holder of the Australian and Australasian Cruiserweight titles.
Opetaia return leaves fans itching for World title tilt
The Cruiserweight division is perhaps the deepest on the Australian domestic scene, but only one fighter stands at its summit – Sydney’s Jai Opetaia (21-0, 17 KOs).
Recently announced as the mandatory challenger for IBF World champion, Mairis Briedis (28-1, 20 KOs), Opetaia has come to dominate the nation’s ranks. His showing against Daniel Russell (7-3-2, 4 KOs) in the co-main event of the Tasman Fighters card was no exception.
Starting the bout measured, the southpaw felt his way into proceedings against a game Russell, who accepted the bout on just 10 days notice after teammate Trent Broadhurst (22-4, 14 KOs) was forced out. Superior footwork and harder punches won the day for Opetaia however, who forced his opponent to take a knee on three occasions in as many rounds.
The final break in action was enough for the referee to call a halt to the eight-round contest. A solid outing for the 26-year-old after missing 13 months of competition due to a hand injury.
Opetaia’s focus will now turn to Latvia’s Breidis, with the fight predicted for the first quarter of 2022. Many fans, pundits, and fighters all wait in hope that he will be able to continue his surge and become Australia’s next World champion.
All eyes turn to Hardman vs Zerafa
Headlining a Tasman Fighters card for the first time, Issac Hardman (12-0, 10 KOs) lived up to the hype surrounding his name, securing a fourth-round victory over Adam Stowe (6-3-2, 4 KOs). The TKO marks stoppage win number four for the 25-year-old in 2021, as well as another defence of his Australian and IBF Australasian Middleweight titles.
Stowe showed early moments of brilliance, landing sharp two-punch combinations to open the contest. Despite such gallantry, the pressure and power of Hardman proved to be too much to handle for the Grafton native.
Taking a much more calculated approach after round one, ‘The Headsplitter’ forced Stowe to the canvas with counter right hands to the head and body in the second and third rounds, before his corner threw in the towel at the closing stages of the fourth.
Wasting no time during his in-ring interview with Jeff Horn, Hardman called for a fight with Michael Zerafa (28-4, 17 KOs), who is ranked number 8 in the World at Middleweight by the WBA.
The bout has been on the lips of Australian boxing fans since Zerafa’s controversial withdrawal from his showdown with Tim Tszyu (20-0, 15 KOs) in July, citing COVID-19 concerns. Taking exception to this, Hardman has since advocated for the meeting and has not minced his words.
“I think everyone here knows what’s next, I’m going to smash that Michael Zerafa’s head in,” Hardman said.
Making the match-up has key advantages for both combatants.
For Hardman, himself ranked 10 by the WBO and 15 by the IBF, he is presented with a challenge against a fellow world-class opponent. Conversely, for Zerafa, who is scheduled to meet Siliveni Nawai on December 17, there is an opportunity to regain a level of favour in the court of public opinion, after being cast aside following the Tszyu ordeal.
Sky’s the limit for Australia’s brightest prospects
As previously stated, Australian boxing is currently experiencing an incredible boom in 2021. Rather than being a flash in the pan, it appears to be a sustained growth period for the sport in the country, as highlighted by the overwhelming number of prospects showcasing their talent.
Across both of Saturday’s cards, a host of fighters under the age of 25 proved that they can form the nucleus of a new generation of fighters ready to take the sport by storm.
Andrew Hunt (9-0-1, 4 KOs, 24 years old) and Taylah Robertson (4-1, 1 KO, 23 years old) defended their Australian titles with decision victories, while Dana Coolwell (7-1, 5 KOs, 22 years old) bounced back from his first professional loss in October, besting Miles Zalewski (9-2, 7 KOs) for the Australian Super Featherweight title.
At the top end of the scales, Heavyweight Teremoana Jnr (3-0, 3 KOs, 23 years old) and Cruiserweight Ricky Silva (4-0, 3 KOs, 23 years old) each scored second-round TKO wins to remain undefeated.
These are just a handful of names for fans to keep an eye out for in years to come. The future is certainly bright.
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Browne proves that power carries late
Ask most people involved in boxing to tell you what the last attribute to diminish for an aging fighter is and they will all tell you the same thing – power. It should be no surprise then, that former WBA World Heavyweight champion, Lucas Browne (30-3, 26 KOs) is a testament to this rule.
Trailing on Jeff Fenech’s unofficial scorecard, four rounds to two, and seemingly having no answers to the speed of Faiga ‘Django’ Opelu (14-3-1, 10 KOs), the man known as ‘Big Daddy’ proved that he still has fight changing force.
After showing pockets of his old self across the first half of the fight, Browne jumped on a tiring opponent in the seventh round.
Having Opelu pressed hard against the ropes, he unleashed a litany of punches that floored his rival. As their fighter lay on the canvas, the Opelu corner soon threw in the towel on their fighter, awarding Browne the win and the WBA Oceania Heavyweight title.
It remains unclear what is next for the 42-year-old victor. Most likely, it will be the suitor with the highest paying offer. What cannot be disputed though, is the fact that Browne’s next opponent will have to be respectful of the power that he still carries.
Career resurgence worth the wait for Woods
A career spent battling away from home is starting to pay dividends for Luke Woods (8-4, 2 KOs).
In the co-main event of the ACE show, Woods defeated Tysinn Best (14-3, 4 KOs) by unanimous decision (99-92, 98-92, 97-93) to claim the mantle of Australian and Australasian Super Welterweight champion.
A tactical fight from go to woe, Woods stayed at long range, repeatedly landing a pinpoint straight left hand throughout the 10 rounds. Having established dominance early, the 29-year-old eased the pressure in the later stages of the fight, while simultaneously landing with enough scoring punches to carry favour with the judges.
The win comes just weeks after the Tasmanian captured the Australian title from Ethan Law (5-1, 4 KOs) and is also his sixth straight contest outside of the ‘Apple Isle.’
Now returning home to hang the belts proudly at the Latrobe Boxing Club, they will serve as a constant reminder to Woods of the sacrifices that have gone into a career built on hard work and a love of the sport.
For all results from December 4’s stacked night of Australian boxing, click here
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