THE death of popular Test batsman Phillip Hughes last week was felt right across Australia and it wasn’t just the cricket community mourning the talented left-hander.
Hughes died two days after being struck in the neck by a bouncer while playing for South Australia in Sydney, triggering an outpouring of grief led by Australia skipper and his close friend Michael Clarke.
Less well known was that Hughes was also a big mate of current WBC Silver light-middleweight champion Anthony Mundine, now the mandatory challenger to Floyd Mayweather at 154lb following his recent points win over Sergey Rabchenko.
Mundine expressed his pain at the loss of Hughes, who would have turned 26 on Sunday (Nov 30).
“I held his hand and told him I loved him,” Mundine to News Corp. “His manager said to me at the hospital, ‘Phillip loved you, Choc’ and I loved him, too.
“I now want to dedicate my next fight to him. I will invite his parents and family. It will be a big fight and I will win it for Phillip.”
Mundine first met Hughes in 2009, the year Hughes broke into the Australia Test side in spectacular style in South Africa.
“We had dinner one night … it was just Phillip and Khoder (Mundine’s manager Khoder Nasser) and me,” he said.
“We became close friends. He came to all my fights and we hung out together.
“When you’re with him, you got a chance to appreciate what a decent person he was. I never heard him say anything bad about anybody and he was always very humble.
“A lot of people were putting s*** on me in those days. But he told me that I inspired him as an athlete and I was really humbled by it.”
Mundine said he spoke to Hughes a few weeks ago and was meant to catch up with him for dinner last week.
“We were really looking forward to it. I still can’t believe he has gone,” he said.
Mundine put his own take on the #putoutyourbats call to honour Hughes – the boxer tweeted a picture of a pair of boxing gloves hanging on a door with the message, “Happy 26th birthday to Phillip Hughes may you rest in peace my man … ”[Link to Mundine’s tweet for picture https://twitter.com/Anthony_Mundine/status/538997258411200512]
Mundine’s great rival Danny Green also sent a message of condolence to Hughes’ family and passed on his sympathy to Sean Abbott, who bowled the delivery that struck him.
“Tragic news on the passing of Phil Hughes. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and team mates … so tragic man but you also have to feel for the young bloke who bowled that ball. Terrible situation all round,” Green tweeted.