THE last time Kali Meehan went into a fight at these kind of odds, he was gambling on a world title in Las Vegas.
That was 11 years ago when bookies rated Meehan a 5/1 underdog against WBO heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster, who was coming off a stoppage victory against Wladimir Klitschko.
That night Meehan genuinely shocked the boxing world.
He battered the smaller Brewster, who was very lucky to survive the twelve rounds.
What followed was a vintage boxing swindle, with two judges (including Dave Moretti, who notoriously scored the first Fenech vs. Nelson fight a draw) scoring the fight for Brewster, who stumbled from the ring with his title controversially intact.
The experience might have tortured a weaker man, but Meehan is a 6’5” pillar of positivity.
He’s had 16 fights since the Brewster debacle, winning 13, and now on Thursday night in Auckland he faces one of his greatest challenges against undefeated Kiwi prospect Joseph Parker.
Bookmakers have Meehan, now aged 45, an 8/1 outsider.
“Understandably Parker’s a big favourite – he’s got youth and speed on his side – and he’s the man of the moment,” says Meehan as fight preparations wind down in Auckland.
“But people should be starting to realise that I have advantages here too – like toughness, and ringcraft – and they’re factors you really shouldn’t underestimate,”
“The night I fought Brewster is not something I think about a lot – because it would send me crazy – but one thing I do know about it is the fighter I am today, at 45, would beat the fighter I was in 2004.”
“I’m more experienced, smarter, and better-prepared now than I ever was then.”
Parker is one of the world’s most exciting young heavyweights. At just 23 he has already knocked out 13 of 15 opponents, and has been fashioned into a mainstream star by New Zealand promotional company Duco Events.
Meehan himself was born in Auckland, but was never embraced by the Kiwi sporting public.
It was in Australia that he rose to prominence, and captured the national title, and he is at peace with the concept of trashing the standing of the region’s most promising heavyweight of recent times.
“I can see little things that he does wrong, which I can capitalise on,” he explained.
“They’re things that in 4-5 more fights he might have worked out, but while he is very talented he is still learning and I need to try to use that to my advantage,” says Meehan.
“When I was coming along as a young boxer I didn’t have those good people around me like he has. They’ve handled him very well with the media and the corporate side of things and he’s a big deal right now,”
“I was undefeated in my first 23 professional fights but nobody knew who I was,”
Kali’s son Willis is also an unbeaten heavyweight boxer, who will have his fourth professional bout on Thursday night’s undercard.
An NRL prospect of note, Willis’ off-field indiscretions have attracted more attention than his sporting achievements to date, but the 20-year-old is blessed with exceptional natural boxing ability.
The father and son pairing have sparred 60 rounds together in preparation for the event, and each will be present in the other’s corner on the night.
The 20-year-old Willis is scheduled to fight on Anthony Mundine’s undercard in November, but his father knows that revenge would soon be on his mind if Thursday’s results don’t go according to plan.
“Losing is not something I’m considering at all,” he concluded. :I’m really very confident of beating Joseph Parker on Thursday night,
“But knowing the kind of kid Willis is I have no doubt that if somehow I was to be beaten, he would want to get in the ring with Parker at some stage and beat up the guy who beat his dad.”
Kali Meehan v Joseph Parker, with an undercard featuring undefeated Aussie prospect Jeff Horn, is LIVE on Fox Sports 1 (Channel 501) from 7.30pm AEDT this Thursday, October 15.
Words: Ben Damon (Follow Ben on Twitter @ben_damon)
Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images