When I started boxing, all I wanted to do was win one world title. Hardly anyone thought I could do it. People were lining up to put the boot into me.
I’d only had four fights as an amateur, they’d point out.
No big promoter had ever heard of me, they’d say.
I ended up winning three world titles in descending weight order. No one in the history of sport has done what I’ve done. It’s unprecedented. I stuck to my guns. I’m proud of that.
THE MAN VS THE SYSTEM
The coppers must’ve thought I was homeless.
It was about 4am and I’d beaten Antwun Echols to win the WBA Super Middleweight world title at the Sydney Entertainment Centre a few hours earlier. I couldn’t sleep. I had so much adrenaline pumping through me. So I got up and walked the streets of Sydney on my own for a few hours to clear my head. People think I roll with entourages and stuff, but I’m more of a loner than anyone knows.
The cops pulled up next to me at one point somewhere in the CBD. The sun wasn’t up yet. They asked me what I was doing. When they realised it was me, they were like, ‘Choc! Man, what are you doing?’
I was reflecting on my journey. I was thinking through everything that went into that moment. I thought about where I came from. Footy. The doubters. I thought about how I was almost late for my first professional fight against Gerrard Zohs and all the fights in between. I thought about how I told people I’d win a world title when I quit league – and now I’d done it. It was a feeling of joy and relief and everything.
And here I am, more than 16 years later, about to teach Jeff Horn a lesson.
They asked Ottke to name the toughest fight of his career. He said it was the one against me.
There’s a big chance that I won’t fight again after this. It would have to be a big offer to get me back in the ring again. As time goes on, the grind gets to you. I’m still in deadly shape, but at this age it’s about desire – the drive to get up and monotonously put in the hard work every single day. I’m feeling very motivated for the Horn fight. But after this? I’m not sure.
If it is the end, it hasn’t really hit me emotionally. I’ve had a good run. I’ve achieved a lot in the sport – more than I dreamed of. I’ve fought some great champions – Ottke, Kessler, Mosley – and put boxing back on the map in Australia against guys like Danny Green, Sam Solimon, Daniel Geale and more.
The reason I didn’t beat Ottke back in 2001 was because I didn’t have the seasoning. You can’t teach experience. I have it now. I know how to break a fighter down these days. I might’ve been physically better then, but I’m wiser and more tactical now.
You’ll see it when I’m out there. I’ll be keeping my hands up, keeping tight, as I like to call it. Being in a position where I can catch punches and counter. Nice and tight, nice and tidy.
I’m not looking at Jeff Horn as a person. I’m looking at him as the system.
I’m going to beat it again, just like I always have.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
I’ve become really close to my Creator these last few years, Hamdullah.
Everything I have achieved was written by God. I am grateful for my mum, the backbone of the family, and my dad, who has guided me the right way, but it is my connection with Allah that is second-to-none right now.
I could count on one hand the amount of Salah I’ve missed in the last three or four years. I’m at peace and content with my life. I give respect and gratitude to the almighty Creator for all we see and don’t see.
There has only been one truth written and it’s up to us as human beings to seek it.
We have to ask ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of life?’
It’s to be obedient to the Almighty and the creator of the heavens and the earth. Look up and you can see his work all around you. There are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on the earth. He did that. Shit like that still blows my mind.
I look at things differently now. If I lose someone close to me, I realise it’s part of God’s will. We don’t own nothing, man. We don’t even own ourselves.
It’s unfortunate what is happening to our society. More drugs are becoming legalised. Alcohol is everywhere. Gambling is tearing families apart. I’m not calling for sharia law or anything like that, but I am saying that if some of these things were out of our society – if there were real consequences – the world would be a much better place.
Less violence. Less pain. Less innocent deaths.
When I no longer have a sporting platform to share these messages, I’ll find another one.
It could be politics.
To think that I played some small part in keeping that fella from taking his own life is more important to me than any world title or famous win.
A lot of the people in parliament are, ‘Yes sir, no sir.’ We need someone who will lead.
They throw millions of dollars at Aboriginal people. Where’s it getting fed to? It’s not Aboriginal fellas guiding this. It’s white fellas. I want to change all that.
Statistics speak for themselves and the trends aren’t changing.
It’s not the people’s fault that Aboriginal lives aren’t improving. It’s those in power, government positions, the system. We need to break that down.
Who knows, man. I might be the man for that.