Boxing Down Under: Australia’s Rich Pugilistic History Part 1
By Ken Hissner (May 6, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
Australia has a rich history of producing some outstanding boxers. The likes of Kostya Tszyu, Jeff Fenech, Vic Darchinyan, Anthony Mundine, and Danny Green, are being talked about by fight fans all over the world today.

There hadn’t been an Olympic medal winner since 1908 when Reginald Baker took silver until Kevin Hogarth, took bronze in 1956 at the Australian Games. In 1960 at Rome Ollie Taylor and Tony Madigan each won a bronze medal. The latter lost to USA’s Cassius Clay in the semi finals. Grahame Cheney
won a silver medal in the 1988 South Korea Olympics.

Taylor turned pro scoring a knockout and won 10 decisions over 12 rounds with 1 draw before losing back to back fights to Bob Allotey (33-1) and for Johnny Famechon’s (18-1-2) Australian feather title over 15 rounds. He then retired with an 11-2-1 record.

Famechon, born in France, came to the continent at age 5. Having no amateur bouts he won all but one of his first 25 fights, which he reversed, then won the Australian feather title in 1965 and the Commonwealth title in 1967. He returned to Paris, France in 1968 and was held to a draw by Rene Roque, French lightweight champion. In London, he beat the WBC feather title from Cuba’s Jose Legra (109-6-4), in January 1969. In his only defense in Australia he defeated two division world champion Fighting Harada (54-5). Referee, Willie Pep, gave the decision to Famechon 70-69. In a return match in Tokyo he stopped Harada in the 14th round. In his last bout he lost to Mexican Vicente Saldivar (35-1), in Italy, over 15 rounds. His record stood at (56-5-6, 20
KOs). He was voted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.

Jimmy Carruthers represented Australia in the 1948 London Olympics. He won his first two bouts but sustained an eye injury and had to withdraw in the quarter finals. Turning pro in 1950, he won the Australian bantam title in 1951. In 1952 he defeated previously unbeaten Vic Toweel (26-1-1) in Johannesburg by a 1st round knockout winning the world bantam title becoming Australia’s first universally recognized world champion. Fighters of the past, holding the Australian version of the world title were Young Griffo (78-10-4), Mick King, in his 13th fight, and Les Darcy. Carruthers repeated his victory over Toweel 4 months later in the 10th round. In 1953 he defeated American Henry “Pappy” Gault (44-7-1) by decision. After this bout it was discovered Carruthers was carrying a 30-foot-long tapeworm.

In May 1954 he traveled to Bangkok against former Thai kick boxer Chamroen Songkitrat (6-1-1), who had just defeated Gault. After 3 days of rain, the bout was taking place outdoors before 69,819 people during a Monsoon rain. The fighters fought in the only barefoot world title bout, before or since. Carruthers won and retired unbeaten in 19 fights. After 7 years he made a return to the ring losing 4 out of 6 matches before calling it quits in June 1962. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of fame in 1995.

Les Darcy and Dave Sands are widely considered to be the two best ever boxers from Australia. Both middleweights also held the heavyweight title. Both died at an early age. Darcy of complications from an infected tooth received from an injury in a fight along with the removal of his tonsils while Sands from a car accident.

Darcy, from Stradbroke, winning 46 of 50, reversed his 4 losses. Turning pro in 1910 at age 15, this 5:06 boxer won his first 16 fights before losing to Bob Whitelaw (21-12-4) for the Australian welter title. Darcy stopped Whitelaw in the rematch in 5 rounds. In 1914 American Fritz Holland (13-3-7) defeated Darcy over 20 rounds, making Australia his home. Holland won the rematch by foul in 18 rounds. Darcy would post 3 wins before again losing by foul, this time to Jeff Smith (16-8-1) for the Australian Version of the World Middleweight Title. Before the rematch he twice defeated Holland, including a 13th round stoppage. Darcy then beat Smith by foul in the 2nd round.

Darcy won 22 fights after the loss to Smith, including the Australian heavy title from Harold Hardwick. Darcy defeated such top visitors as Americans Eddie McGoort (71-10-5), Billy Murray (50-11-6), Jimmy Clabby (79-17-25), George Chip (57-18-8), and Buck Crouse (73-14-6).

Darcy had the misfortune to become embroiled in the politics of World War I, and left Australia for America after the Chip fight in September of 1916. His last fight of his life would be in a hospital bed, after collapsing on April 27th, 1917. He had his tonsils removed but developed pneumonia and died on May 24th at the age of 21. It’s been said he died of a broken heart after leaving Australia. His body was returned to Australia where an estimated half-million people paid their respects. Darcy would become a member of both the World Hall of Fame and the International Hall of Fame.

Sands, in an 8 year career had 110 fights, winning 97, with 63 by knockout, 10 losses, with 1 draw. From Newcastle, Sands won 25 out of 26 losing only to Jackie Marr (15-9) in the first of 3 meetings. A draw and a Sands decision would follow. Sands won the Australian middle and light heavy titles. He reversed a loss to Emory Jackson (13-3-2) in 1947. Then won 21 straight including American Alabama Kid (164-48-19). He lost to American Tommy Yarosz (76-4) in London after suffering from a swollen, vaccinated arm. Sands then won 5 fights including ‘fight of the year’ with France’s European champ Robert Villemain (35-2-1) and Commonwealth champ Dick Turpin (73-15-6) in the 1st.

In 1950, Sands returned to Australia defeating American Carl “Bobo” Olson (38-2) in a close fight. They would have a rematch in Chicago Stadium, with Sands winning. In London he lost to Yolande Pompey (13-0-2) of Trinidad. Ahead on points he lost by cut in the 7th. Pompey would later challenge Archie Moore for his light heavy title.

In Australia in 1952, Sands won defenses of his Commonwealth and Australian middle titles to Al Bourke (25-1-1) and Jim Woods (31-14) at heavy. This would be his last fight July 9th, 1952. On August 11th Sands would die from a car accident at the age of 26. Sands later became a member of the World Hall of Fame.

The first well known heavyweight of Australia was Peter “Black Prince” Jackson, from St. Croix, Virgin Islands. He would defeat Tom Leeds in 1886 for the Australian title and Jem Smith for the British Commonwealth title, by knockouts. In 1888 he went to America defeating George Godfrey for the ‘Coloured’ title while winning 13 fights.

In the UK he won 13 straight before returning to America winning 4 fights. He would return to Australia after 28 months for a 3 month period. He drew with Joe Goddard (9-0-1) for the Australian title. In 1891 returning to America in his most famous bout he fought 61 rounds with future world champion James J. Corbett (12-0-2) with both fighters too exhausted to continue. A no contest was declared.

In 1892 in the UK he knocked out Australian Frank “Paddy” Slavin (30-0-5) who had been unbeaten for 10 years, for the Commonwealth title. With only 1 fight in 1895 he lost to future champion James J. Jeffries (5-0-2) in 1898. In all Jackson had some 98 fights winning 46, losing 3, with 3 draws and the rest being no contests. He was inducted into the International and World Hall of Fames.

Vic Patrick, from Sydney, won the Australian titles in the light (1941) and welter (1942) divisions. He won his first 21 fights before losing to Tod Morgan (136-44-33) by foul. Less than a month later they fought for the Australian lightweight title with Patrick winning the decision. They would meet 2 more times with Patrick winning. After the loss to Morgan, Patrick ran off 16 more wins before losing to Les Sloane due to an injured shoulder. Before their rematch Patrick would win the Australian welter title by knockout over Hockey Bennell (54-15-7). He then stopped Sloane in 3 rounds.

In 1946 down to 131 he defeated Eddie Miller (66-13) in the 6th round re-winning the Australian lightweight title he had won 5 years previously. In his next fight before over 14,000 people he stopped Eddie Marcus in the 1st round.

In 1947 American Freddie Dawson (47-5-2) stopped Patrick in the 12th. Dawson would later challenge for the world title and end his career in Australia in 1954 winning his 101st fight. In 1948 he drew with Mickey Tollis (30-4-5) and finished up with a pair of wins including a 12 round decision win over American Tommy Stenhouse (28-2-1). His record was 52-4-1, 45 knockouts.

George Bracken, Palm Island, fought from 1953-62 winning the Australian light title in 1956 only to lose it in 1958 and regain it in 1960 only to lose it again in 1962 while compiling a 41-15-3 record.

In the 60’s Rocky Gattellari won his first 16 fights including the Australian fly title in his 4th fight. He lost to WBC champ Salvatore Burruni (81-5-1) from Italy in the 13th. He won 5 straight before being stopped by Lionel Rose (26-2). Turning pro in 1964 after failing a birth on the Olympic team, Rose would win the Australian bantam title in 1966. His defense against Gattellari put him into a WBC/WBA title bout 2 months later in Tokyo where the 1964 games had been held. Finally making it to Tokyo the 19 year old would upset 2 weight division champion Fighting Harada (50-3) by majority decision. Rose was accorded the biggest welcome of any Australian sporting champion after returning home from his title winning trip to Japan before over 100,000 people. He defended his title in Japan defeating previously unbeaten Takao Sakurai (22-1) by majority decision. In California he won a non title bout over Jose Medel (64-23-7) by majority decision and a split decision over Chucho Castillo (33-7). In 1969 he won a split decision over Commonwealth champ Alan Rudkin (36-4) in Melbourne. He lost his title to Ruben Olivares (51-0-1) in August of 1969 by knockout. In 1971 he lost to WBC super feather champion Yoshiaki Numata (43-6-3) in Japan by decision. He didn’t fight for 4 years before retiring in 1976. His record was 42-11. For a teenager who started sparring with rags on his hands in a ring made from fencing wire stretched between trees to become a world champion was quite an accomplishment.

The 70’s produced 4 fighters including 2 world champions. Rocky Mattioli was born in Italy and would migrate to Australia where he made his debut in 1970. He only lost 2 times in his first 35 fights while beating this year’s hall of fame inductee former WBC/WBA light welter champ Eddie Perkins. A loss of his Australasian welter title on cuts to Ali Afakasi in 1975 did not discourage him. He came back in his next fight stopping former WBC/WBA welter champion Billy Backus (39-18-4) in the 5th round. After a loss to American Harold Weston (18-6-2) he ventured back to Italy.

In April of 1976 he drew with Italy’s former WBC light welter champ Bruno Acari (67-2). After winning 10 fights besides the Acari fight he would travel to Germany to fight Eckhard Dagge (20-3-1) whom he stopped in the 5th round for the WBC light middle title in August of 1977. He defended his title in Melbourne stopping former WBC light middle champ Elisha Obed (67-4-4) in the 7th round. It would be his only fight in Australia in the last 7 years of his career. In Italy he stopped Jose Manuel Duran (63-6-9). In 1979 he would lose to Maurice Hope (26-2-1) in the 9th round. He would score 6 knockouts in a row before being stopped in the 11th by Hope in London. He finished his career in America scoring 4 knockouts before retiring August 19th, 1982. His record was 65-7-2 with 52 knockouts.

Tony Mundine, born in Baryulgil, won his first 4 bouts before finding himself on the canvas in the 1st round against current Australian boxing writer Ray Wheatley before coming back to win in the next round. He won 20 of his first 21 bouts including the Australian middle title. He drew with Bunny Sterling for the Commonwealth title after 15 rounds. He was stopped by former welter champ Luis Manuel Rodriguez (104-9) in the 1st round. He then won 8 straight knockouts winning the Australian heavyweight title over Foster Bibron in the 11th round though giving up 46 pounds in February of 1972.

In Mundine’s next fight he won the rematch with Sterling stopping him in the final round for the Commonwealth title. He had scored 19 straight knockouts including American Denny Moyer (83-23-4), Brazilian Juarez DeLima (40-13-5), South American champ Antonio Oscar Aguilar (69-9-7) and in France, Nessim Max Cohen (31-7-8) along with former WBC/WBA welter and middle champion Emile Griffith (77-14-1).

Mundine’s 22 fight win streak was broken by American Bennie Briscoe (48-12-1) in the 5th round in France. He then won 3 straight knockouts before getting a WBA title bout with middle champ Carlos Monzon (82-3), being stopped in the 7th. It would be his only title shot though fighting another 10 years and move all the way up to an elimination bout in 1979 losing to cruiser Mate Parlov (23-2-1) in Italy.

Mundine added the Commonwealth light heavy title in 1975 stopping Victor Attivor (7-4-1). In 1981 he beat Steve Aczel (27-4-1) for the Australian heavy, cruiser, and light heavy titles. He stopped Monty Betham (38-9) in 1980 and Jamaican Bunny Johnson (54-15-1) in 1981. He retired in 1984 with an 80-15-1, 64 KOs, record.

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Ken at: kenhissner@yahoo.com

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