Anthony Mundine has spent the better part of two decades polarizing Australian sports fans, so it’s not surprising that it took him less than a week to incite a crowd in the United States.
The brash junior middleweight, a mega-star Down Under, is making his American debut this Saturday at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas against veteran Bronco McKart. In addition to the typical Main Event pay-per-view treatment in Australia, WealthTV is distributing the event as a PPV across North America as well. The angle for the American network’s promotion of the bout has been that Mundine is a possible challenger for Floyd Mayweather in the near future.
Mundine, never one to shy away from trash talking, set up fight week camp right in the Mayweather Gym.
As you might expect, he heard plenty of barking from the notorious “dog pound” in the facility.
“It was a pretty parochial crowd. They were really trying to put me off,” Mundine told RingTV.com. “It was pretty radical man. The boys obviously heard me talking about what I wanted to do, but I meant no disrespect. He’s the best in the game. I always aspire to be the best, and fighting him, I just want to test my skills, because I really feel I’m one of the guys who could trouble him, because of my speed.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find an analyst or fan to go on record as agreeing with him. Mundine (43-4, 25 knockouts) has been given every negative label a fighter could be given, “protected” and “overrated” prominent among them.
Nonetheless, “The Man” has compiled a resume that is in stark contrast to the criticism hurled at him. He has notable wins over THE RING’s No. 2-rated middleweight Daniel Geale, long-time contender Danny Green and a 2003 version of Antwun Echols.
In terms of hardware, he has collected titles at super middleweight and middleweight and an interim strap at light middleweight (Writer’s note: Although he met criticism for being “given” an interim title, Mundine does not recognize his 154-pound trinket as a world title). Most impressively, he has done so while descending in weight.
“It doesn’t really bother me when people say I haven’t fought anybody,” Mundine said. “I know who I’ve fought and what I’ve done. I feel if I fought King Kong himself, I still wouldn’t get the recognition. That’s why I’m calling out Mayweather. I’m saying give me the best. I know I’m not going to just get him like that, on a plate. I want to get through (Miguel) Cotto or (Saul) Alvarez, whoever I need to, to show I can compete on that level.”
In order to face the fighters of the ilk he’s mentioning, he has to venture to the United States. It is well known that at the top level of the sport, no promoter is eager to send one of their big names on the road, particularly to the furthest possible continent.
But there’s another reason why he’s come here. It’s not money, because he can make plenty of that as one of his country’s biggest television properties. Rather, he feels underappreciated by the Australian audience, whom he believes don’t value the magnitude of his accomplishments.
“If you research my background and look at my resume, I really believe I’m one of the best, if not the best athlete ever, as far as an all-around athlete,” said Mundine, a former National Rugby League star. “I was the highest paid player on the open market. And the highest paid player in the history of St. George. I left because of political reasons – injustice and prejudice.
“I wanted to become a champion, a boxer. To become a three-time world champ, plus my football career, which I left in my prime, the pinnacle. No one’s done that. That’s like taking a big NFL star, Michael Vick, for example, giving it up and winning three (boxing) world championships. That doesn’t happen.”
Beating a faded 41-year-old McKart on Saturday certainly won’t change anyone’s opinion of him. McKart (54-9-1, 34 KOs) is 10 years removed from last facing Winky Wright in the third bout of the trilogy he is most famous for, and 16 years removed from holding a world title, the WBO junior middleweight strap he won from Santos Cardona in 1996. In recent years, he has fought journeymen in gymnasiums in the Midwestern states, staying busy with the hopes of one last big shot.
Regardless, down in Australia, Main Event expects a whopping 10,000 domestic buys for the fight at $49.95 a pop, despite the bout airing incredibly early on Sunday morning, according to the Brisbane Times. WealthTV can realistically expect much less than that in the States, but just being in Las Vegas is a start for Mundine though, even if he’s in the unfamiliar role of being on the small stage in a new country.
“I know once they see me fight on July 14, people are going to be talking about me. My style is very infectious and appealing to the eye. I’m very charismatic and flamboyant. I truly feel that I’m the modern day Sugar Ray Leonard. I just need the fights that he had to put me on that level,” said Mundine.
One thing is for sure: Nobody has ever doubted his ability to talk, or get people talking.
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman