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13 NOVEMBER 2018

Where am I? Home Columns Paul Upham

The fire still burns within Danny Green

Danny Green
Danny Green

By Paul Upham: It was June 2001 and Danny Green was only two weeks away from making his professional debut against Waqa Kolivuso in Sydney. During a busy training session at the then Team Fenech gym at the Bankstown PCYC, Green sustained a small eye cut in sparring and came out of the ring at the end of his rounds mouthing expletives, unhappy with his performance. The inner fire the Australian Olympian released that stopped the busy gymnasium, from someone who had seemed so friendly and gentle away from the ring, was memorable.

Fast forward six and a half years, twenty-two wins, one WBC Interim super middleweight world title and millions of dollars of money in earnings later and the same fire is still burning deep within 33 year-old Green. After an eight round sparring session with Peter Kariuki a week ago, Green stepped out of the ring at the Glebe PCYC furious with his performance. Don't believe that him being older and after achieving a certain level of monetary success has quelled the fire within him.

"I pride myself on being the best I can be and trying my best," said Green. "I'm in the game for a good time not a long time and I want to achieve all that I can. I try so hard and that's why I get down on myself some times. I really want to be the best."

On the day in question, Kariuki had just arrived from New Zealand, Green paying for him to be one of his official sparring partners. The eight rounds were like a real fight with better quality action than you would see in many professional contests, such a pity that there were only four people there that day to witness it. The tall 29 year-old Kariuki from Kenya, who many fans in Australia will remember for his two wars with Jason Delisle on the 'Respect' cards in 2001, showed that he has improved immensely since his last fight in Australia in October 2002.

"I had been really happy with my sparring with Glen Kelly before that," said Green. "I did two sessions with him and was very happy. My power was good, my strength and my speed. At that session with Peter, I was concentrating on some other things other than boxing on that particular day."

Many times, things are not as they seem at first impression and Green was not feeling so bad later that night.

"When I went home and watched the video," said Green, "it wasn't as bad as I thought it had been."

Since that day, Green has had sparring with Nader Hamdan, Daniel Lovett, Jason Tramsek and more rounds with Peter Kariuki and has been pleased with his work.

"I think Peter is pretty happy to be on a plane going back to New Zealand," smiled Green. "He is a tough guy and he took a lot of punishment and I give him credit, he came back for more rounds."

While he hasn't had the world championship boxing reign that he desires, Green has been very successful financially. His Green Machine Promotions company, established with close friend Justin Manolikus to promoter his fights, has allowed him to earn larger pay days. Business Review Weekly magazine in their annual sports rich-list in December estimated that Green earned $4.25 million in 2006.

"I could retire tomorrow from fighting and working and live the rest of my life," said Green. "I wouldn't have to work a day again. But that's not why I'm in the sport. I don't want to rest on my laurels."

You can only admire a man who gets up in the morning to run at 6am before pushing himself throughout the day in boxing and fitness workouts when he doesn't really need to. Green 22-3 (20) continues to punish himself in training, knowing that 2007 is a very important year for him. While he will face Paul Murdoch this Sunday night January 21 at the Netball & Hockey Centre in Melbourne, televised in Australia on Main Event Pay-Per-View and Fox Sports Pub & Club Vision, he could have so easily been fighting for the WBA light heavyweight world title.

Green Machine Promotions reached an agreement late last year for new WBA world champion Silvio Branco 55-8-2 (34) to make an optional defence of his belt. It was a real coup for the former WBC Interim super middleweight world champion, considering that Green had only had one recent fight in the division, a 9th round knockout over Jason Delisle on September 20 in Perth.

But Green experienced the politics of boxing once again, when the WBA ruled that 40 year-old Branco must first make a mandatory defence against Croatian Stipe Drews 31-1 (13) on February 24 in Germany.

"That's life," Green said of the ruling. "I was disappointed that it didn't come off because it was pretty much a done deal with Branco coming to Australia."

Which leads us to this weekend's fight with 33 year-old Murdoch 26-6-1 (16) from Geelong. An agreement had actually been reached for their fight to be held in December in Newcastle, but was cancelled when Green thought he would be facing Branco in the new year instead.

While many of his fights have been un-televised, Murdoch has had a good career with a long run as the PABA light heavyweight champion and a shot at undefeated WBO world champion Zsolt Erdei in Germany in May 2006, where he put up a strong fight before being stopped in the 10th round.

"Paul went ten rounds with Zsolt Erdei in his hometown and Zsolt Erdei is a very, very talented fighter," said Green. "Erdei has got a lot of power and he is a very skilful fighter. Paul Murdoch has fought for the world title and you can't do much more than that other than win it. He is a very credentialed fighter. He has beaten a lot of very good fighters and he has got a lot of experience. He is an Aussie and a tough guy and he has got a lot of pride.

"He is the underdog and I am the favourite. That's what I keep reading in the paper or what people are telling me. But I'm thinking, 'hang on mate', he has knocked guys out. He knows how to fight and he knows how to handle himself. He has been around a long time. He isn't going to be the easy fight that everyone expects. I'm certainly showing Murdoch the respect by training very, very hard."

The impressive win over 34 year-old Delisle was important for Green as it cleared up where he stood with his career after his disappointing loss to arch-rival Anthony Mundine in May 2006, where he was not at his best physically.

"I was rapt," Green said of beating Delisle. "I was very happy. I did what I had to do. I chopped Jason down and you saw the punishment he took. He is an animal. He is a very tough guy. I was hitting him flush and there are not that many guys who can take punishment like that. I was surprised he lasted until the 9th round. I was very happy to do the job and not get hit. I put him away with some nice clean shots at the end of it. I was really happy with my performance. There was a lot of pressure in that fight, coming back after losing to Mundine. A lot of expectation and pressure. A lot of unnecessary pressure was heaped upon me because of reports that I was going to retire or should have retired. That was ridiculous. The only person who decides when I am going to retire is me."

The Delisle rematch was further evidence that Green was competing at super middleweight for fifteen months longer than he should have been. While accurately measuring the boxing abilities of Mundine and Green is a story for another day, it can be strongly argued now that Green was in a weakened physical condition the night he stepped into the ring to face "The Man" at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Asked to compare how he felt going into the ring against Delisle compared to Mundine, Green was initially reluctant to offer what he may feel is an excuse for his points loss in one of Australia's biggest ever fights.

"I felt stronger," he admitted. "I did feel stronger. I basically have morphed into a light heavyweight. That's it. I will never make super middleweight again. In the Beyer rematch, you could see the signs were there that I was really fighting under my weight division then. I was too light and I had no juice and no pop and still got a majority points loss there and nearly did the job in the last round. It was very frustrating. If I had a couple of kilos in the lead-up to the fight, maybe it would have been a different story. But that's history. Against Mundine, it was very difficult making the weight division, so I am not a super middleweight anymore. I am a light heavyweight."

Only someone with the iron will determination of Green could have squeezed a 6'1'' body his size into 168lbs. That he had anything left at all to fight Beyer and Mundine for twelve rounds is a testament to his resolve to conquer any obstacle in front of him.

"To be able to wake up in the morning and have breakfast is a pretty good feeling," said Green. "I sacrifice a lot when I am training with my food, I am away from my family and my friends. I don't have much of a life apart from just boxing, recuperating and recovering from training. Against Jason, it was good to be able to wake up in the morning on the day of the fight, have breakfast and be three and half kilos above the weight division."

The plan for Green is to try to have one of the light heavyweight world champions make an optional world title defence against him and if that can't be done in the short term, get his world ranking up in the major sanctioning bodies and become a mandatory contender.

"I have prepared very well and I am down in Melbourne now putting on the final touches with (trainer Ismael) Salas and things are going terrific and I am very happy," Green told SecondsOut on Saturday, after his final sparring session.

On Thursday, he held a lunch time sparring session at the busy Federation Square in the centre of Melbourne.

"It was kind of interesting," he said. "The first time it has been done in Melbourne, so it was a buzz. I had a short, sharp sparring session there."

When his public training session was completed, Green told the Melbourne media that a rematch with Mundine was likely in 2007. Asked to confirm this, the "Green Machine" was initially a little evasive as a rematch with Mundine is not a topic he puts forward himself.

"I'm just answering questions," he said, with a smile. "I was just answering questions. It is a question that everyone asks and my answer is I will discuss it after this fight, but it is going to happen. It won't be at super middleweight. It may not be at light heavyweight, but it won't be super middleweight. That's for sure. If it has to be at super middleweight, it won't happen. I physically can't make the weight."

For someone writing the perfect script, the best scenario for a Mundine-Green rematch at the end of 2007 would be after both have won WBA world titles this year in separate divisions. Mundine then moving up in weight and challenging Green at 175lbs. Though, it must be said that "King" Sam Soliman will have something to say about that on March 7, when he rematches Mundine with the vacant WBA super middleweight world title on the line.

"You can't write him off from any fight," Green said of Soliman. "He is a machine. He is an animal and a machine. He is such a good guy. It is going to be a very difficult fight for Sammy. I think the reason it will be difficult is because Mundine will come in prepared this time and he won't take Sam lightly like he did last time. No one can possibly take Sam Soliman lightly. He is ridiculous with his work rate. I wish Sammy all the best."

Paul Upham
Contributing Editor

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