The news that Blake Ferguson will make his professional boxing debut next week has prompted me to discuss this growing trend of footballers making their way into the boxing ring. Firstly let’s look at some that have played top grade football and also had professional boxing matches. The major one is obviously Anthony Mundine, and then there is Garth Wood, Sonny Bill Williams, John Hopoate, Soloman Houmono, Lance Thompson, Joe Willams, Sam Rapira and Quade Cooper.
All these converts except for Mundine, Wood and Joe Williams, are Crusierweight (80kg-90kg) or Heavyweight (90kg+). They are big, fit, strong, elite level athletes. My biggest problem is the opponents selected for these athletes. Most seem to be overweight and unfit. I understand that these guys are novice boxers with limited to no boxing background and should therefore fight other novices. This only makes sense. But with these guys developed strength and fitness levels, they could at least fight a semi fit opponent. Boxing is a serious sport and people can get severely injured. In the best interest of competitors, families and viewers, putting people in who are obviously not fit to be in a boxing ring should not be allowed. Another thing is it makes the sport of boxing look bad. In the state boxing is currently in, it does not need these types of incidents to tarnish it’s imagine.
My second problem is how much exposure and publicity these footballers get for their boxing matches. Mundine v Mosley is one of the biggest boxing events this country has ever seen and Blake Ferguson gets a spot on the undercard. This is a guy who was sacked from the NRL, is battling a court case following a charge of indecent assault and has never had a fight. I guarantee there are a number of established fighters that would love the opportunity to showcase their skills on such an event. Some boxers go entire careers without getting the chance to fight on TV, yet this guy gets to debut on an event that will be broadcast worldwide. It also annoys me when people talk about boxing and mention names like Cooper and Williams but would have no idea who Bika, Tomlinson, Dib, Fletcher or Capparello are. This shows these footballers get too much publicity and our real fighters don’t get enough, which to me personally is a major issue.
I will however say I don’t regard all these names previously mentioned as the same. The players who have stopped football to pursue a boxing career and treat it seriously I generally have no problem with. It’s the guys that have one off bouts or a fight every couple of years I don’t agree with. It shows they don’t really care about the integrity of the sport and only want to make some money and boost their own profile. You may not like him, but you can’t deny Anthony Mundine’s skill and what he has done in boxing is commendable. Soloman Houmono has gradually progressed and is the current Australian Heavyweight champion. Joe Williams didn’t use his previous NRL status to gain exposure, he will contest for the WBF version of the World title in November. Garth Wood is a hard worker, who has earnt his spot and will get the chance to challenge for the Interim WBA World title in December.
All I really want to see is footballers and management teams to approach and take the sport in a more serious manner. Not only is the safety of their opponents on the line, but the integrity of an entire sport. Also how about less media hype when these guys decide to fight and some more exposure for the number of talented, genuine fighters we have in the country, working hard and getting little recognition outside of the serious boxing circles.