Boxing in Australia has always suffered from what historian Geoffrey Blainey calls the ‘tyranny of distance’. He argues that Australia’s geographical remoteness has been central to shaping our history and identity – and explains how it will continue to form our future despite the shrinking of the online global village. Distance has always shaped Australian boxing since it takes time and money to travel across the international dateline and either throw yourself into the deep end or pay someone else to come here and take the risk of falling prey to both jetlag and a hometown bias. Either way it’s not easy to find the funds or the right path. There are just enough professional male boxers in Australia to make competitive matches on local shows. But those with the ambition to reach greater heights in the sport, really need to go elsewhere – the US, Europe or the UK – in order to get in the elite mix. And some of our contemporary males have done that, to their great credit. Robbie Peden, for example, took his vast amateur experience and success and jumped straight in, basing himself in St Louis, Missouri his entire pro career and vowing to fight only the best until the IBF featherweight belt was his. And lightweight Michael Katsidis is now also campaigning in the US and making his mark. He’s scheduled to fight Juan Manuel Marquez on November 27 in Las Vegas for the WBO and WBA lightweight titles. Sharon Anyos, once our most notable female boxer and at one time the only one of any gender to hold a WBC belt, also went seeking her fortune in the US and Japan, fighting some of the most formidable females in the world like Jane Couch MBE, Jo Jo Wyman, Marcela Acuna and Fujin Raika while Lisa Brown fought Anyos on home turf. And now for her successors like Susie Q Ramada, Sarah Howett, Diana Prazak and Erin McGowan, the tyranny of distance is rearing its ugly head again. This was nowhere more apparent than last night at Coburg Town Hall in Melbourne. Prazak and Ramadan had no choice but to fight the women put in front of them. But in both cases, neither opponent was quite up to the task. It was a clear sign that either these girls will need the backing of someone with the cash, the incentive and know-how to bring in better quality fighters, or they need to take the risk themselves like Peden and Katsidis, and jump into that deep end. It’s a pretty tough call and I’m not sure what I would do if I was in the same situation. But I do know this, the level and depth of competition in women’s boxing is only going to get tougher, and fast. A career window isn’t wide enough to delay for too long.
Last night Sarah George (pictured left), Prazak’s opponent, was the surprise package of the night displaying plenty of pluck. She was a last minute replacement for Eileen Forrest and was outgunned in strength, although certainly not heart, in the women’s lightweight contest. Giving away several kilos, George put up a terrific fight against the much stronger Prazak who stopped her in the fourth and final round after a barrage sent her to the canvas. Prazak, whose boxing skills are becoming more refined with each fight, demonstrated a stiff and straight jab that sent George, a Muy Thai champion, flying backwards on several occasions. But the Queenslander’s footwork got her out of the corner many times and Prazak had to work hard to trap her and, eventually, finish her in the first of the two women’s bouts. George dusted herself off pretty impressively and resurfaced to help corner Ramadan’s opponent Satreelek Paradorngym, who unfortunately lacked enough resilience to go more than two rounds in the scheduled eight-round bantamweight bout. No one would have been more disappointed about that than the fastidious Ramadan, who is managing to stay busy and fight every six weeks. But you have to question whether that degree of activity against opponents who don’t challenge her is worthwhile. Visa problems had prevented Ghana’s Yarkor Chavez Annan who has beaten seven debutants and has lost twice to UK’s Lindsey Scragg in her four losses. But it’s doubtful how much of a contest that fight would be, although it’s been rescheduled for November. Ramadan clearly has world-class skills and a razor sharp focus but I suspect she will continue to struggle most of all against distance, which at this point looks like being her toughest and most frustrating opponent of all. And I’m sure that she, more than anyone, wants to know in her heart that she can genuinely take it to the top.Meanwhile, Serge Yannick (pictured right) , originally from Cameroon and a veteran of 158 amateur fights won his 12-round contest against Fijian based Ghanan Joseph Kwadjo for the interim PABA super middleweight title. Hence the title of the show, Jungle Fever. The two former African’s put on a hard-punching main event. Serge represented Cameroon in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and stayed on in Australia with the rest of his team, bringing some more experienced fighters into the local mix, including Samuel Colomban, a stylish welterweight and bantamweight Eric Abana. Last night’s win clearly made promoter/ trainer Charlie Liparota (pictured below) a happy man.