SEVEN thousand, two hundred and forty-six days have passed since Anthony Mundine began his career rebirth as a professional prizefighter.
In that time, the former rugby league star has divided the opinion of the wider sporting public, forging a vocation as the most lucrative combat sport athlete the country has ever seen.
While his remaining days as an active fighter are most certainly numbered, Mundine’s legacy as a dual sportsman will transcend decades, according to senior ABC Grandstand commentator Corbin Middlemas.
“The biggest cross-over star that Australian sport has ever seen is Anthony ‘The Man’ Mundine,” he told his radio show on ABC Grandstand.
“I think what’s been underrated over time is how good Anthony was as a footballer.
“He left as the highest-paid player in the NRL. Origin appearances, 134 club games with St. George and later St. George Illawarra, the Brisbane Broncos, won a premiership there during the super league days.”
Armed with a collection of stats, Middlemas made reference to the notoriety and high-profile nature of Mundine’s code switch, underlining the significance of his sporting status — offering Australian rules footballer Marcus Bontempelli as an apt comparison.
“Halfway through the 2000 (NRL) season, this was a huge story,” he explained.
“This was a massive story, this was enormous. Think of Marcus Bontempelli halfway through next year says, ‘you know what, I’m going to go an be a boxer’, and a full-time boxer, and just completely walk out of the game — and leave in his wake — basically the entire sport, who has lost one of their biggest stars with a famous surname in Australian sport.
“He starts his boxing career on pay-per-view, that is unheard of.
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“To think that someone who begins their boxing career, that already has a profile, that for people on paid television, and also sling them another 50 bucks on top of that to buy your event against a guy named Gerard Zohs at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in his very first fight that he had.
“Then after 10 fights, he fought Sven Ottke, who is a killer over in Germany, had no business fighting for a world title after only 10 fights. A guy who was a footballer who put boxing gloves on not that long ago. He was up on the cards when he lost that fight.
“Because he got knocked out, somehow, people think that takes away from his greatness. From that point on, he fights Mikkel Kessler not long after that, again, a guy who is considered top 10 pound-for-pound at the time. One of the best super middleweight champions in the world.”
Although an argument can be made that Mundine (48-10, 28 KOs) fell short of fulfilling his prodigious talent on the world stage, Middlemas highlighted Mundine’s domestic legacy, which stretches beyond any existing pursuit in the modern era.
“People weren’t talking about boxing in mainstream sporting conversations,” he concluded.
“And all of a sudden, these two guys. Take nothing away from Danny Green — who had a spectacular career — largely because of Anthony’s profile and the way he was able to be the divisive figure that he was.
“He had a counterpart there in Danny Green, who represented most of mainstream Australia. They were able to sell out a football stadium that had the world talking on a Wednesday night.
“It’s hard now when you think of guys like Jeff Horn who have come after him, we kind of go, yeah, that’s what boxing does. That hadn’t happened since the Fenech days. We’re talking 20 years between drinks for the sport of boxing.”
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