IBHOF inductee Graham Houston looks at the stars illuminating a rejuvenated Australian boxing scene including Tim Tszyu, George Kambosos and Justis Huni.
When we think of countries that produce good fighters, and ones who are exciting to watch, maybe we don’t always think of Australia. But we should. The Aussie boxing scene is more vibrant than it has been for some time. I’ve certainly been taking note of it.
Unbeaten George Kambosos Jr challenges Teofimo Lopez for the lightweight title, possibly on August 14. Heavyweight prospect Justis Huni was due to box for Australia in the Olympics, pros being permitted, but has withdrawn after injuring his right hand in his June 16 win over Paul Gallen. An Aussie superfight between Tim Tszyu and Michael Zerafa is scheduled for July 7. There are some excellent up-and-comers, plus boxers on the verge of the big time. Things are looking good.
Australian boxing events usually aren’t available to watch on TV or the internet for those living outside Australia and New Zealand, but I’ve been doing my best to stay on top of things. Here are 10 of my personal Aussie favourites, in reverse order.
10: Jacob Ng
Ng (pronounced “N-gee”) calls himself “The Flamingo” and he has one of the most colourful ring walks you’ll ever see. He’s a tall lightweight (almost 6ft) but from what I’ve seen of him he likes to go to his opponents and let the punches fly rather than staying back and boxing on the outside. Ng rallied from a “fight over” type of knockdown in the first round to stop slugger Hunter Ioane in the fifth round last December. He’s 15-0 (11 KOs).
9: Sam Goodman
Goodman is a rising star in the 122lbs division. A bronze medallist in the youth world championships, he’s 9-0 (5 KOs) as a pro. Goodman, 22, has excellent hand speed, punch-selection and head movement.
8: Brock Jarvis
Trained by the great Jeff Fenech, 130-pounder Jarvis brings non-stop pressure and a high punch-volume in the manner of his mentor. He simply overwhelms his opponents. Jarvis, 23, gets right down to business. He’s scored nine first-round wins in a record of 19-0 (17 KOs). The other man doesn’t have to go looking for him — he’s right there.
7: Issac Hardman
A former MMA competitor, Hardman fights with greater maturity than you’d expect from a boxer with limited ring experience (11-0, 9 KOs). A six-footer, Hardman, 25, might just have the size, ability, chin and punching power to be competitive at world-class level. His promoter, Dean Lonergan, says he expects “wonderful things” from Hardman, who weathered a second-round onslaught to stop Aussie rival Emmanuel Carlos in four exciting rounds in his last fight.
6: Jason Moloney
Moloney’s game showing in lasting almost seven full rounds with bantamweight champion Naoya Inoue last October looks impressive after the way the “Monster” crushed Michael Dasmarinas in three rounds last weekend. Moloney’s only other loss came on a split decision against Emanuel Rodriguez, when a late-rounds rally came up just short. He’s 21-2 (18 KOs). Moloney, possibly unlucky not to have got the decision against Rodriguez, is 30 and could become a world champion on the third attempt with a little luck, just as long as Inoue isn’t in the other corner.
5: Andrew Moloney
Jason Moloney’s twin brother, Andrew was bitterly unlucky when his 115lbs championship rematch with Joshua Franco ended on a no decision after two rounds last November. The Nevada commission “replay official” ruled that Franco suffered a swollen eye as the result of a clash of heads but the Moloney camp believe it was a punch that did the damage. Moloney seemed well on his way to gaining revenge over Franco, who had beaten him on a unanimous but very close decision five months earlier. The WBA has mandated a rematch (actually a trilogy fight) with Franco and Moloney (21-1, 1 ND, 14 KOs) is no doubt eagerly awaiting a confirmed date for the fight.
4: Liam Wilson
Wilson, 25, might be the best of all Australia’s rising stars. The 130-pounder has a 9-0 (6 KOs) record. He was impressive in knocking out southpaw Jesus Cuadro in the fifth round, just five months after Cuadro had given Jo Jo Diaz a really close call in a 12-rounder. Wilson brings educated pressure and he has an excellent left hook to the body. My notes describe him as “cool, controlled”.
3: Justis Huni
Huni, skilled, fast and athletic, was an Australia gold-medal hope for the Tokyo Olympics but it’s just been announced he has withdrawn due to a hand injury. It’s a disappointment, but Huni’s future is bright. Just 22, Huni was a world youth championships gold medallist and a bronze medallist in the senior championships. He’s been fast-tracked as a pro, boxing in a 10-rounder in his debut. Stopping former rugby star Paul Gallen in his last fight brought Huni’s record to 5-0 (4 KOs). Gallen, inexperienced as a boxer but very tough and game, lasted into the 10th and final round but this could have been stopped much sooner. The criticism of Huni is that he doesn’t seem to have heavyweight firepower, but his jab, hand speed and combinations can wear down an opponent.
2: George Kambosos Jr
Kambosos, 28, earned the right to challenge Teo Lopez when he won a split 12-round decision over Wales’ Lee Selby in an elimination bout in London last October. Selby jabbed beautifully at times but Kambosos kept on top of his man and landed the sharper, harder blows. The win took Kambosos’ record to 19-0 (10 KOs). Kambosos seems to be brimming with self-belief. He assures interviewers that he is going to spring the big surprise against Lopez and his confidence seems totally genuine.
1: Tim Tszyu
Son of Russian-Aussie great Kostya, 154-pounder Tim Tszyu has moved out of his father’s shadow in compiling an 18-0 (14 KOs) record. Tszyu, 28, simply crushed Aussie rivals Jeff Horn and Dennis Hogan in fights expected to test him. Next up (July 7) is the always tough and gritty Michael Zerafa. If Tszyu gets past Zerafa a world title fight would seem to be within reach; he is the WBO’s No. 1-ranked contender.
Main image: Tim Tszyu celebrates victory over Aussie rival Jeff Horn.