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The man of the moment in Australian boxing circles is undoubtedly Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne. His historic victory in Grozny, Chechnya, for the WBA ‘regular’ heavyweight title, was a monumental moment in Australian sports history.
But the inevitable question has to be asked: can Browne take the next step and become the real heavyweight champion of the world?
The answer is a resounding no.
Browne has achieved a great deal in a short period of time, but boxing is one of the most humbling of all sports, and the road ahead is beset with challenges that will prove to be more than he can handle.
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The World Boxing Association currently has three heavyweight world champions. Browne, who holds the regular title, the heavy-handed Cuban Luis Ortiz, who holds the interim version of the title, and the real or super champion, Tyson Fury.
Boxing world titles are essentially given by organisations in return for sanctioning fees whenever that title is fought for. There are four major organisations that give out these belts, or titles, in each weight class, meaning there are four world champions in each weight division.
The WBA, one of the four major organisations, has diluted the championship pool even further by adding a regular champion, the title Browne holds, as well as a super champion, Tyson Fury.
Interim titles are generally awarded when a titleholder is unable to defend their belt due to injury, and often two of the top-rated contenders will fight for this interim title. They are then generally given the first chance at the real champion when he is fit to fight once again, but in the case of Ortiz, his interim title was a blatant cash grab by the WBA.
This cash grab is set to continue in the coming year as the WBA plans a tournament between its three champions, along with a group of high-ranking contenders. This is where things get tough for Browne.
The tournament itself may very well be a display of all that’s inherently wrong with the sport of boxing today, but if anything, the greed of the WBA organisation has been the catalyst for Browne becoming a world champion in the first place. In order to further his claim to such a title, he has some seriously talented men standing in his way.
Fres Oquendo is likely to be Browne’s next fight, and while that is winnable for the charismatic Aussie, the real challenges present themselves after that.
The giants of the sport stand in his way, names like Wladimir Klitschko, Fury, Ortiz and Alexander Ustinov, all men with sizeable reach advantages to Browne.
Browne showed awe-inspiring fortitude in coming back after being dropped against Ruslan Chagaev, but one has to wonder how he would do against a younger, and more importantly, much bigger champion.
Modern boxing, especially the heavyweight division, has become reliant on controlling distance. Keeping your opponent at a distance that negates their power and makes it hard for them to land clean blows has become an art form that most of the top heavyweights have perfected.
Browne lacks the reach and head movement to get past the expected barrage of one-two combinations from what many term the ‘super heavyweights’, men who are often over two metres tall, with phenomenally long reaches.
Browne’s fight prior to the Chagaev bout saw him up against the 216-centimetre, aptly named, Julius Long, in August last year. Long may be a huge man but he has little in the way of real boxing skills, as shown by his 16-18 record prior to their meeting. Yet Browne had some trouble putting away such a big man, something that doesn’t bode well should the Aussie wish to become the real champion of the division.
While Browne showed off some newfound boxing skills of his own in his bout with Chagaev, there’s a great deal of doubt surrounding whether or not those tactics will work on men of the calibre of the aforementioned. Big Daddy has the heart, but his skill set is a level below the elite big men of the sport.
Browne has been a professional boxer for just on seven years, and with no amateur experience to his name he has relied upon his power more than his boxing nous to this point. The problem with relying solely on power is that you need to be able to land a shot cleanly to turn the tide in a fight.
Against a much longer fighter, who is experienced enough to control distance, Browne’s much-vaunted power will undoubtedly be nullified and he stands to be dealt the kind of punishment he suffered in Round 6 against Chagaev. This time, he is unlikely to have an answer to such punishment.
Lucas Browne epitomises the Aussie battler. His story is one of perseverance, and he should be applauded for his accomplishments thus far, but I fear the good times won’t last.
His lack of experience and his inability to negate the reach and savvy of his would-be opponents will soon become apparent, and the outcome isn’t likely to be pretty for Australia’s new hero of the ring.