In 2011, Australian boxing witnessed a changing of the guard. For a sport which recently has relied on the likes of Anthony Mundine and Danny Green for media exposure and box office appeal, 2011 saw peripheral fighters stride to centre stage.
It saw the crowning of new world champions in Daniel Geale, Billy Dib and Will Tomlinson, along with many others springing into world title contention.
Mundine, Green, Vic Darchinyan, Michael Katsidis and Lenny Zappavinga also flew the flag for Australia, but it was the young brigade who shone brightest.
Let’s take a look at what is in store for some of the country’s biggest fighters in 2012.
IBF Middleweight Champion, Daniel Geale
After defeating Sebastian Sylvester for the IBF middleweight title in May, 2011 and defending his title against Eromosele Albert in August, a broken hand prevented Geale from further fights in 2011.
He is scheduled to defend his title for the second time against an unknown opponent on March 7 in Hobart, on an impressive card featuring Billy Dib and Kali Meehan.
The opponent is likely to be IBF middleweight No.1 contender Osumanu Adama, who won the right to be Geale’s mandatory challenger following his defeat of Roman Karmazin last October.
Geale has shown his desire to tackle the other middleweight world champions in Sergio Martinez, Felix Sturm and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, however he may find the going tough in securing a big name fight.
Don’t be surprised to see him in the ring with Mundine at some point in 2012. After their highly controversial first fight there will be a lot of money made in a rematch.
IBF Featherweight Champion, Billy Dib
After winning the vacant IBF featherweight title against Jorge Lacierva last July, he defended against the unimpressive Alberto Servidei, who Dib destroyed in one round.
Despite his impressive recent form, many doubt Dib’s world title credentials, and there is no better chance for Dib to dispel those doubts once and for all.
Dib meets the tough Eduardo Escobedo in Hobart on March 7, in a fight which will be the toughest of his career.
Escobedo is undefeated since 2007 and has put away some impressive names in the featherweight division. Dib has big plans going forward and is looking to return to the USA and re-link with Golden Boy Promotions.
A fight with Indonesian superstar Chris John still remains an option, and it seems so much is starting to happen for the young featherweight. It is amazing to believe he is still only 26.
The penny has finally dropped for The Man. For so long he has been derided for fighting lesser opponents rather than cashing in on his enormous talent and fighting the biggest names in the world.
While Mundine has spoken of his wish to do this, he is finally putting those plans into action.
He has developed a relationship with once sworn enemy Jeff Fenech, who is acting on Mundine’s behalf in the United States and looking to secure fights against the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto.
While not a lot has come from initial negotiations, Mundine still has a shot at interim WBA Junior-Middleweight Champion Austin Trout, which if victorious could springboard him into a shot at the big names that he seeks.
If unsuccessful, he still has some big fights to fall back on at home. Fights with Daniel Geale and Danny Green are available for a rainy day should his American plans come unstuck.
The big question going into 2012 is whether or not we will see Green back in the boxing ring. Although Green did say he would not retire following his recent knockout loss to Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, he did not indicate any firm ideas as to his next step.
Green will have to put a number of wins together following back to back knockout defeats to Tarver and Wlodarczyk, before securing another world title shot.
A fight with New Zealand cruiserweight Shane Cameron was all but signed before his crushing defeat to Tarver and that may be the ideal tune-up to a bigger fish later down the line.
Rematches against Wlodarczyk and Tarver could be possible, and there was even some talk on social media recently about a rematch with BJ Flores, despite Green’s comfortable victory over the American in their 2010 fight.
I wouldn’t rule out a drop to light-heavyweight, given Green is considered a small cruiserweight and has suffered against the bigger hitting bodies of late.
With Mundine talking in the press about moving to cruiserweight to tackle Wlodarczyk himself, maybe that offers a little glimpse of a Green-Mundine rematch in the future to send both into retirement with a substantial payday.
Looked as though age was catching up to him in his one-sided defeat to Anselmo Moreno in December, and is really stuck in no man’s land in terms of the world title picture.
Darchinyan is still within the top ten in the division, but has shown an inability to get the job done against the division’s elite.
He has touted a move into mixed martial arts, given his wrestling background in Armenia as a youth, and with the UFC debuting a new flyweight division we may yet see the Raging Bull enter the Octagon in 2011.
After a disappointing 2011, Katsidis will be looking to rebuild in 2012 and work his way towards another world title shot. Having tasted defeat in three of his last four fights he needs to get back into the winners circle soon.
He has made the decision to move to the US and has recruited Jeff Fenech and former Kostya Tzsyu manager Vlad Warton. With Katsidis’ game plan focusing on his ability to cut off the ring, Fenech is a great choice. A make or break year for ‘The Great’ Katsidis.
Very much in the twilight of his career, Sam “King” Soliman takes on Garth Wood in Sydney on February 19 to determine the No.2 ranked challenger in the IBF middleweight rankings, with the winner looking to secure a world title shot against fellow Aussie Daniel Geale.
Solimon has been largely inactive in recent years and is running out of time to win that elusive world title.
Fights against Sam Soliman on February 19 for the IBF No.2 ranking, which could lead to a shot at Daniel Geale. Wood was largely inactive for 2011, only chalking up a highly competitive loss against Anthony Mundine in April.
A fight with Johannes Mwetupunga in August had to be cancelled after Wood received a cut following a head clash in sparring.
Wood has built a sizeable following after his reality show win and surprise knockout of Mundine, but a defeat against Soliman may see him fall back into the pack and lose his relevance.
IBO Super-Featherweight Champion, Will Tomlinson
“Wild” Will Tomlinson is in line for a huge 2012. After rounding out an exciting 2011 by capturing the IBO Super-Featherweight Title in Perth on the Wlodarczyk- Green undercard, bigger things await the impressive youngster.
An exciting fighter, who shirks no challenge, has even called out fellow Aussie, Michael Katsidis. With the Australian public at odds with the Mundine-Green sideshow, Tomlinson’s no-nonsense approach and all-action style may yet usher in the new era of Australian boxing.
Much is unknown of Zappavinga’s future plan, and there are some doubts over the youngster’s continued interest in the sport.
After a disappointing 2011, which saw him defeated by Miguel Vasquez in their IBF Lightweight World Title fight, before being knocked out by journeyman Ameth Diaz, who going into the fight had only won 10 of 29 fights. Last reports were that Zappavinga was training to enter the MMA scene.
With a 13-0 record and already under contract to Bob Arum’s promotional company Top Rank, big things are expected of the former Olympian.
He is one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Australia in some time, and his style is sure to catch fans attention.
He made his US debut last July with a round one knockout of Juan Jose Beltran in California, and with Billy Hussein and Mike Altamura working their magic behind the scenes he is in good hands.
The excitement surrounding Fleming reminds me of “Cool” Willy Kickett, whose early career was met with similar excitement but never seemed to hit the heights projected.
From what Fleming has shown us so far, I don’t think that will be an issue. A fight with fellow super-featherweight Will Tomlinson would be mouth-watering.
After retiring from the AFL, Hall announced that he would enter the boxing ring and attempt to cash in on the potential that saw him win the Victorian bantamweight title as a youth.
After almost making the move three years ago after falling out with the Sydney Swans and sighting a half-million dollar contract from Danny Green’s Green Machine Productions, Hall feels 2012 is now the right time.
At age 34, it is unlikely that a world title is in Hall’s future, but there are several domestic fights that can make some good business for Big Bad Barry Hall.
We can only hope he makes a better fist of things than other footballers who have made the move, such as Carl Webb, John Hopoate, Solomon Haumono, Les Mason and Monty Betham.