Boxing Down Under: Australia’s Rich Pugilistic History Part 3
By Ken Hissner (May 8, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
Grahame “Spike” Cheney, New South Wales, was a silver medal winner at the 1988 Olympics. In order to get to the final he defeated future WBA welter champion Ike Quartey from Ghana and American Todd Foster who also had a successful pro career. Cheney stayed amateur until the Commonwealth Games 1990 winning a bronze medal.

He turned pro in 1991 winning the Australian welter title in his 5th fight stopping Attila Fogas (8-2-2). In his 8th fight he won the WBC International title from Hector Vilte (52-10-3) of Argentina. He
stretched his unbeaten streak to 10 stopping American Don Wilford (18-2) but lost to Alex Tui (10-9-2) in 3. He won the rematch 5 months later in September of 1993 stopping Tui in the 4th winning the IBF Pan Pacific light middle title. In 1994 he stopped American Tom Alexander (17-5) and had his first fight off the continent stopping UK’s Gary Logan (26-1) in London. Then he went to the USA and won a decision over Tony Rodriguez (12-1). Back in Australia for his next fight he challenged for the light middle title losing to Leo Young, Jr. (10-0) by TD in 11.

After taking a year off, in July of 1995 he defeated former 3 time world challenger Terrence Alli (52-10-2) of Guyana. Next up was American Pat Coleman (22-4) whom he decisioned. In March of 1996 the Russian Viktor Baranov (25-7-2) came in and ended Cheney’s career with a 5th round stoppage. Cheney’s record was 17-3, 11 KOs.

In 1991 the amateur world championships were held in Sydney. A Russian fighter named Kostya Tszyu would win the gold medal in the light welter division. Little did anyone know at the time when the collapse of the Soviet
Union came about in 1992 that this exciting Russian would be returning to become one of the legendary Australian boxers becoming a citizen in 1993.

“The Thunder from Down Under” turned pro in 1992 winning his first 3 fights by knockout. In his 4th fight he faced the former WBC feather champion Juan La Porte (37-12) who in 1990 challenged WBC super feather champion Azuma Nelson in Sydney losing a close decision. Tszyu won every round on the judge’s scorecards.

Next up was the Argentine Daniel Cusato (16-1) whom he stopped in the 7th round. Next came in future WBO light welter champion Sammy Fuentes (23-10-1) who never survived the 1st round. By his 10th fight he was in with former WBA lightweight champion Livingstone Bramble (34-11-3) whom he had down in the 1st round and easily decisioned. NABF champion Hector Lopez (26-2-1) was the next victim, then he ended the career of former WBC title challenger Angel Hernandez (40-1-2) of Puerto Rico in 7.

Dominican champion Pedro Sanchez (26-1-2) would be the only thing standing between Tszyu and the IBF light welter title shot. He would fall in the 4th round. Off to Las Vegas to challenge Puerto Rico’s Jake Rodriguez (26-2-2) for the IBF title. Winning every round the referee finally stopped the one sided fight in the 6th crowning Tszyu champion in his 15th fight on January 28, 1995.

Tszyu’s first defense would be back in Australia winning almost every round over Roger “Black Mamba” Mayweather (54-11), the former WBC light welter and current IBO champ. Knockout defenses would follow over previously unbeaten Columbian Hugo Pineda (27-1) in 11, American Corey Johnson (20-1-1) coming off a draw with then unbeaten Aussie, Shannon Taylor (14-0-1), stopped in 4, and previously unbeaten South Africa’s Jan-Piet Bergman (32-1), in 6.

Starting in 1997 Tszyu would travel back to the USA taking on Puerto Rico’s Leonardo Mas (23-2) in Las Vegas. This is a fight he would like to forget. After dropping Mas 2 times referee Joe Cortez (Puerto Rican) stepped between the fighters as Tszyu was throwing a punch out of a clinch. Mas went down and Cortez ruled it a no contest in the very first round.

Tszyu was trying to get a fight with WBC champ Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya chose to fight Pernell Whittaker instead. So in what Ring Magazine called the upset of the year in 1997 Vince Phillips (35-3) scored a 10th round stoppage of Tszyu in Atlantic City. The cards were even going into the 10th. Strange, but there would never be a rematch.

Now it seemed like the goal was to go after the WBC title. It started from December of 1997 winning an elimination match over Ismale Chaves (40-5-3), who was stopped for the first time, followed by stoppages of 2 former world champions Calvin Grove (49-9) and Rafael Ruelas (52-3) to another elimination match in November of 1998 with Cuban Diosbelys Hurtado (28-1). In the Hurtado fight Tszyu found himself on the canvas twice in the first while Hurtado was down once. Tszyu would finally stop his opponent in the 5th. Some 18 months and 2 elimination matches and still no title fight. Tszyu stayed idle for 9 months before the title finally became vacant. In August of 1999 he was matched with Mexico’s Miguel Angel Gonzalez (43-1-1) and stopped him in the 10th as Gonzalez trainer climbed up into the ring due to the beating his fighter was taking.

In his first defense of his new title Tszyu had Ahmed Santos (26-2-4) down twice in the 8th before the referee stopped it. In July of 2000 it became the meeting of 2 legends, Julio Cesar Chavez (103-4-2) and Tszyu in Phoenix. Chavez down to 140 for the first time in 2 years trying to recapture the title he lost to De La Hoya. Tszyu won in 6.

In early 2001 in Las Vegas, Sharmba Mitchell (47-2), the WBA champion cannot continue due to a knee injury in the 7th. Earlier in the 4th round Tszyu was penalized a point for pushing. What seemed like an easy defense next was not so easy. The previously unbeaten European champ Oktay Urkal (28-1) of Germany gave Tszyu fits at times. The outcome was never in doubt but it was not a pleasing performance on the champion’s part. Next would be the vocal IBF champion Zab Judah (27-1). Halfway through the first round Judah rocked Tszyu with a left uppercut and had him holding on. With 30 seconds to go in the round again Judah stunned him. He seemed too fast for Tszyu. Between rounds his corner must have come up with something because when he came out for the 2nd he landed a lead right that put Judah down. He got up but fell down which is an automatic stoppage. Referee Jay Nady was correct in his decision.

In May of 2002 in Las Vegas, granite chinned Ghana fighter Ben Tackie (24-2) was next with Tszyu winning every round. It would be the champions only fight that year. In 2003 in Melbourne, American Jesse James Leija (43-5-2) the former WBC super featherweight champion whose 4 fights with Nelson (won 2, lost 1, drew 1) made him a worthy challenger. Though Tszyu was ahead it was an interesting fight until at the end of the 6th when Leija could not continue due to a perforated right eardrum.

The rematch with Mitchell (55-3) happened in November 2004 in Phoenix. Tszyu had been off for 22 months with various injuries. Mitchell had won 8 in a row including wins over Phillips, Tackie and Lovemore N’dou. In Mitchell’s mind he had lost due to knee injury in their first fight. Tszyu went through Mitchell like a buzzsaw stopping him in the 3rd after 4 knockdowns. Mitchell was no match for him.

The stage was set for what would be Tszyu’s last fight on June 4, 2005. Due to American television, the fight would take place in the wee hours in the UK. Ricky Hatton (38-0) was the celebrated hero there. He could do no wrong. There are different points of view with this fight. American Emmanuel Burton who was Tszyu’s main sparring partner was at ringside. His account was similar to this writer’s. When Hatton wasn’t holding Tszyu he was getting his ears boxed off. The referee Dave Parris seemed to allow Hatton to do whatever he thought fit. Hatton rabbit punched, head butted and held throughout the 10 rounds. The judges had Hatton ahead. Press Row judges Ron Borges 95-95, John Dillon 96-95 Hatton, and Colin Hart 96-95 Tszyu. Tszyu quit on the stool at the end of the 11th, to a stunned audience. That was no way for a champion to go out. Tszyu was too gracious a loser afterwards. Tszyu has kept his hand in promoting fighters from Russia.

Lovemore N’dou was born in South Africa. The “Black Panther” turned pro in 1993 winning 10 of his first 11 fights. He traveled to Australia in 1995 losing to Cliff Sarmardin (22-0) who 2 months won in Chicago in his final bout. N’dou returned to South Africa drawing with Mthobeli Mhlophe (25-4-1) for the countries super feather title. He has never fought there since.

In May of 1996 N’dou returned to Australia for good winning 17 straight before PABA champion Guillermo Mosquera stopped his streak. After 3 wins he made his USA debut in 2002 losing to Jose Luis Juarez (23-4-1) by majority season in California. Off to Hawaii the next month scoring a stoppage over Jun Gorres (25-2-1) and then back to California losing to Steve Quinonez (28-6-1) though scoring a 1st round knockdown.

N’dou would win 5 straight including a TD in 8 over Damian Fuller (21-2) after receiving a nasty gash above his right eye. He had Fuller down twice earlier in the fight. Returning to Australia he won his first ever title over Cesar Leiva by 7th round knockout for the IBF Pan Pacific light welter title. This all lead to his first world title bout in Atlantic City losing to IBF champion Sharmba Mitchell (52-3).

Several months later he lost to future champion Miguel Cotto (19-0) in an eliminator bout for the IBF title. In 2005 N’dou lost another eliminator match to the UK’s future WBC champion Junior Witter (30-1-2) in Los Angeles. After 5 straight wins in Australia he would be matched with the Tunisian Naoufel Ben Rabah (24-2) Australian based, living in Perth. Ben Rabah had won over Juan Urango 8 months prior to this for the title. It was February of 2007 while ahead on all judges’ cards at the end of the 11th, Rabah failed to come out for the final round making N’dou the new champion. Ben Rabah has not fought since.

It would be short lived. N’dou traveled back to the USA in June 2007 losing almost every round to Paul Malignaggi (22-1) whom most people felt had no chance. The rematch with Malignaggi is set for May 24th.

Paul “Hurricane” Briggs has been a hard man for most of his life; he used his anger and aggression to become the world kick boxing champion at 19. But after a detour into the underworld as a drug dealer and standover man, Briggs decided to turn his life around. He won his debut by a majority decision in 10 rounds over Ronald Doo (43-11-5) in June of 1994 at 158. Since he was still kickboxing (54-5, 39 KOs) he didn’t have his second fight until January of 1997 coming in at 172. “I wasn’t interested in training or getting fit. My ego got in the way and I got smashed”. He was stopped by southpaw Larl Zada (5-1) in the 3rd. Zada would never fight again while Briggs did not come back until late 1999 at the heaviest of his career 191. He would stop Ken Suavine (3-7-1) in the 4th.

In his 6th bout in July of 2000 he won the IBF Pan pacific cruiserweight title by TD in 5 over Daniel Roswell (12-1-1), the current PABA and Australian champ. He followed up by scoring 13 knockouts in winning his next 14 fights including the Australian and OPBF light heavyweight titles. The latter was over Glen Kelly (28-1-1) in the 4th. Then came the former WBA middleweight champion from Argentina Jorge Castro (122-8-3). Though the scoring was not close it was a fight that earned Briggs a 6 month rest. “The break was awesome” said Briggs.

Briggs was put into a WBC title eliminator bout with Mexico’s Jesus Ruiz (18-3) who had Briggs down in the 2nd. Briggs came back to win the decision and the right to meet the European champion from Croatia and previously unbeaten Stipe Drews (26-1). It was his second elimination match. He won on all scorecards and would finally get his title bout going to Chicago to meet Poland’s Tomasz Adamek (28-0) for the vacant WBC light heavy title. Chicago had a very big Polish population which could have influenced the judges. In what most people felt could have been a candidate for fight of the year Briggs lost a majority decision. It would take two wins and 17 months to get the rematch with Adamek. The champion had one successful title defense and had been off a year. In another brutal bout in which Briggs had Adamek on the canvas in the 1st and gained a point in the 9th from low blows, Briggs again would lose by majority decision. Briggs has had only one fight since that night winning the vacant IBF Australasian title over Ruper van Aswegen (12-4-1) in Sydney over 12 rounds.

Gary St. Clair came to Australia from Guyana in 2001. He started his career in Guyana in 1994 having 4 fights before coming to the USA in 1996 and won his first 14 up until 1998. St. Clair was held to a draw by Bernard Harris (14-3-1) but followed up with a win earning an IBF super feather title eliminator with future champion Diego Corrales (25-0) in California losing a decision in 12. He went back to Guyana winning their title over Vincent Howard (14-6-2) in 12 in 1999. At the end of the year he returned to the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia losing to another future champion in Vivian Harris (15-0) by decision.

In 2000 he in Montreal he lost to yet another future champion, Romanian Leonard Dorin (15-0). He came to Australia winning 19 out of 20 fights with 1 draw. He had captured the WBF International super feather title from Bart Abapo (13-1-2) and the WBO Inter-Continental feather title from Decho Bankluaygym (16-3-1). A win over American Shamir Reyes (17-2-2) earned him an IBF and IBO super feather title bout. On July 29th, 2006 he won a close decision over Cassius Baloyi (32-2) in South Africa for the titles.

On a return to South Africa he lost a split decision to Malcolm Klassen (18-3-2). In with Baloyi for a title eliminator bout, he lost in November of 2007. Baloyi is scheduled April 12th to meet Mzonke Fana (27-3) the new champion who had defeated Klassen. A month after losing, St. Clair jumped up to lightweight winning a 6 rounder. In February he took on the Olympic silver medalist Amir Khan (15-0) on short notice for the Commonwealth title and lost by a shutout. St. Clair is 39-6-2 with 17 knockouts.

Robbie Peden of Brisbane was a member of the 1992 and 1996 Olympic teams. He would win 3 out of 5 bouts. He turned pro in the USA in late 1996 easily winning his first 8 fights. He would return to Port, Vanuatu in September of 1998 and then in Auckland winning the IBF Pan Pacific super feather title from Solomon Catarogo (6-7) with a 1st round knockout. He returned to the USA winning 6 more times and once in Poland. In his 16th straight win he won a split decision over the South American champion from Argentina Carlos Rios (48-3-2) for the NABF super feather title in Las Vegas in March of 2000. In his next fight he would lose that title to John Brown (21-7).

In his next bout he went down to feather and won the NABF title over Edgar Barcenas (19-5-3) of Mexico. After several more wins he would fight future world champion Juan Manuel Marquez (37-2) for both NABF and USBA titles in a title eliminator in Pittsburgh being stopped in the 10th round. Peden would take a year off returning with several wins including stopping Lamont Pearson (20-2-1) for the vacant USBA super feather title. Then he was in California against the current light champion Nate Campbell (24-1-1) in an elimination bout. Campbell was having his way with Peden for 5 rounds when he dropped his hands and taunted Peden to throw a punch. He threw a right hand and dropped Campbell who failed to beat the count. You had to see it to believe it. After 11 months and 1 fight he met Campbell again for the vacant title in Melbourne Park in February of 2005 winning this time in the 8th for the IBF super feather title.

In September of 2005 he met the legendary WBC champion Marco Antonio Barrera (60-4) with both titles on the line in Las Vegas. Barrera would easily outbox Peden taking both titles. Peden didn’t fight again for 18 months upon returning to Australia. He moved up to lightweight taking on Filipino Ranee Ganoy (21-10-2) for the vacant IBF Pan Pacific title. Ganoy, now living in Sydney, dropped Peden in the 7th and stopped him in the 8th in March 2007. Peden has not fought since. His record is 25-4, 14 knockouts.

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