THE misleading nature of boxers’ record was once again underlined at the weekend as Lee Selby stopped Joel Brunker on Eddie Hearn’s promotion at the O2 in London. Australia’s Brunker came in with a shiny 27-0 ledger but didn’t perform at anywhere near the exalted level suggested by those stats as Selby finished him off in the ninth round.
The result wasn’t entirely unexpected, because a close examination of Brunker’s record revealed that he not fought anyone in world class; mostly Aussies, Thais and Filipinos of modest achievement. Still, you never know – boxers can rise to the occasion and fight far better than expected. Brunker was not one of those, and it was a smart match for Hearn and Selby’s handlers to make.
Perhaps the tip-off that Brunker was no great shakes came in the way his people had let him fight outside his homeland just twice, both in the USA: against the moderate Carlos Fulgencio (w ko 1) in 2012 and against decent but light-hitting Mike Oliver (w pts 8) last year. That Joel had not boxed since the Oliver outing 14 months ago suggests he was “sitting on” his high world rating with the IBF, who recognised the Selby match as an eliminator for its belt.
A look at the history of Australian pro boxing reveals that prospects there tend to be moved quickly if it’s believed they can really fight. Remember, the geographic isolation of the country makes it very expensive to build a boxer by importing fighters, so promoters like to discover sooner rather than late if their investment in a fighter is worthwhile.
Jeff Fenech was one of the hard-luck stories from the 1984 Lose Angeles Olympics, losing controversially to eventual gold medallist Steve McCrory of the USA. He made his pro debut in October 1984 (in a 10-rounder!) and the following month won the Aussie super-flyweight title in only his third paid outing (a 12-rounder!).
After three more Fenech victories, on April 26, 1985 Japan’s Satoshi Shingaki was enticed to Sydney to defend his IBF bantam belt against the Aussie, whose all-action style sold plenty of tickets and thus encouraged his backers to splash out big money for Shingaki. It paid off as Fenech stopped him in nine to become world champ in just his seventh pro bout.
Another example of a precocious Aussie world champ also came at bantamweight in Jimmy Carruthers, although his title-winning effort was his 15th paid fight, when he shockingly knocked out Vic Toweel in November 1952. Jimmy’s development was pretty rapid in terms of time, though – his pro debut had been only two years and three months earlier (August 1950), and the Toweel challenge was his first paid fight outside Australia.
Brunker will presumably now slip back into obscurity, unlike Carruthers and Fenech. But then those two count among Australia’s best-ever fighters, so that’s no disgrace.