If there’s one characteristic that stands out when describing Australian sports fans, it’s their infatuation with an underdog story.
Often encapsulated in the tale of the dark horse are the nation’s long accepted social values; the fight for a fair go, giving your all in the face of adversity and mateship expressed through a healthy respect for the contest.
For this reason, sporting figures like Scott Boland, the veteran fast bowler that rose from limbo to dominate the 2021/22 Ashes series, become beloved by barrackers from coast to coast.
Or perhaps, in more recent times, it explains why the Matildas invigorated patriotism in their fairytale run through the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
In the build up to his showdown with Australian boxing’s biggest star, WBO World Super Welterweight champion Tim Tszyu (23-0, 17 KOs), challenger Brain Mendoza (22-2, 16 KOs) has been subject to similar adulation.
For the New Mexican, the fan fare has not gone unnoticed.
“In person, everyone’s been receiving me with lots of love,” he told the media.
“I know you guys might not be fully rooting for me, but I hope to gain a few more fans after fight night.”
It can be said that Mendoza’s career is one that fits the aforementioned criteria for Australian fight fans.
Since suffering his second career loss, a unanimous decision defeat to the highly regarded Jesus Ramos (20-1, 16 KOs) in 2021, the 29 year old has undergone a career renaissance of sorts.
A stoppage of Benjamin Whitaker (15-10, 3 KOs), a fight that ironically took place on the undercard of Tszyu’s US debut in March of 2022, was followed by two stunning knockouts in fights Mendoza entered as underdog.
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Brutal finishes of former champion Jeison Rosario (23-4-1, 17 KOs) and a surging Sebastian Fundora (20-1-1, 13 KOs) have helped solidify his place among the best in the division. The latter of these bouts not only netted newfound acclaim, but the interim WBC Super Welterweight title as well.
Although not planned, the meteoric rise out of what was a destiny leading towards the boxing wilderness is a journey the American is proud of.
Mendoza has well and truly fought for a fair go.
“What can I say, I made my own real life Rocky story,” he said.
“I didn’t mean to start it that way when I started my career, but you have ups and downs in life and it is what it is.
“I clawed my way back from obscurity and at this point I’m chasing greatness, I want this belt. It’ll change my life, my family’s life and everybody around me. That’s what you’ll see, I’ll be fighting that way in the ring.”
Having made it this far, Mendoza now has no intention of slowing down.
Despite the approval they’ve given in the build up, the raucous fans that pack the Gold Coast Convention Centre on October 15 will be roaring for a Tszyu win. Yet, this is a form of adversity that the challenger is welcoming.
After all, he has battled the odds just to get this opportunity.
The important thing to note is that obstacles have not stopped the dream chasing.
With a demeanor that is equal parts built on calmness, humility and belief, Mendoza has full confidence that the title is his for the taking.
“Being in the underdog role in these situations and pulling something like that off, it’s a dream come true and it’s a high I’m going to be chasing for the rest of my life,” he concluded.
“I’ve had quite a few (dreams) but you guys will have to see how those unfold.
“The common denominator is that my hand gets raised at the end of the night.”
Tim Tszyu vs Brian Mendoza goes down on October 15 on Main Event/Kayo. To order, click here.