Justin Whitehead: “I would love to be Australian champion again”

AT an age where most fighters are enjoying the fruits of a well-earned retirement, Justin Whitehead is preparing to climb the proverbial mountain one more time.

Whitehead, 44, will lace up for only the second time in five years when he faces tricky American journeyman Julius Long in a scheduled six round contest at Bendigo Stadium on Saturday night.

The popular Bendigo local will look to deal with the colossal height and reach of an awkward Long (16-19, 14 KOs), who has given several regarded heavyweights a tough night at the office.

With his homecoming fight only a matter of hours away, Whitehead (6-0, 3 KOs) admits that getting back into shape at his age was always going to be a working progress.

“There is no doubt this sport can be physically and mentally draining at the best of times – let alone getting back in there after five years away – and working six days too,” said Whitehead in an interview with Aus-Boxing.

“Even when I wasn’t competing I was still training away from the spotlight and kept a bit of touch with sparring,”

“It took me a good twelve months to drop around fifteen kilograms to get properly fight fit and the hunger just came back to me.”

Whitehead’s first fight on the back of a long spell away came in August, where he iced a flabby Clarence Tillman in three rounds. Although the former national champion openly acknowledges that Tillman wasn’t in good condition.

“Yeah, look I will be completely honest here and say that big Clarence probably didn’t turn up in the best fighting shape,” admitted Whitehead.

“It was just about me getting back in there and trying to combat the nerves and the anxiety of pre-fight time,”

“I hadn’t dealt with that aspect of it for five years so that was difficult,”

“I just found that when I climbed through the ropes it all went away, it was good to go a few rounds before I stopped him. It was really pleasing to shake off some cobwebs and get a bit of time back in the ring.”

And while Whitehead hasn’t seen much of his opponent ahead of Saturday night, Whitehead concedes that dealing with Long’s enormous height and reach advantage will be a challenge in itself.

“It is certainly hard to try and prepare for a guy who is 7″1 tall,” joked Whitehead. “He is a tricky proposition for anyone given his height and length,”

As for his immediate future, Whitehead is open about his plans to embark on another potential run at the Australian heavyweight title, which he formerly held in 2010.

“We will see what happens after Saturday Night,” he concluded. “But there are plenty of potential match ups for me domestically – guys like Ene-Purcell, Leapai and Haumono – I think these types would make for great fights,”

“We will see happens. I would love to be Australian champion again.”

Photo: Provided/Hosking Promotions



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