Crowd, boxing and Ellis all take a severe battering
By Roy Masters
July 16 2002
Floored challenger: Lester Ellis falls to his knees and the fight is over in the third. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
It was a fight in which the winner's reputation and the patience of those who watched took a worse battering than the loser.
Anthony Mundine's victory over 37-year-old Lester Ellis in the third round at Melbourne's Vodafone Arena last night was pure farce. The younger, fitter, heavier Mundine carried Ellis from the opening bell.
When Ellis's brother and trainer, Keith, stopped the fight in the third round, the only person in the capacity crowd who seemed to agree was Mundine's mother, Lyn. "I'm glad its over," she said, with the look of mothers who see their sons home tucked in bed after they have come home from war.
When asked why he had stopped the fight, Keith Ellis said: "Mundine was only warming up and I've got to take him home."
Any element of suspense in the evening air dissipated as soon as Mundine showed he was too quick and Ellis lacked power.
The crowd had been promised a mugger in Ellis but got a man with a pop-gun punch.
A protracted delay before the tainted spectacle, described by the ring announcer as a "battle of tactics to see who comes out first", forced the Victorian Professional Boxing and Combat board to enter both dressing-rooms.
In view of Ellis's age and the fact he had not fought for six years, it was feared he might be the first contender ever carried into the ring.
The delay was, in fact, caused by a demand by Ellis to be paid up front, despite the VPBC board's official version that Ellis had succumbed to the crowd's wish he enter first.
He did, to the tune of Working Class Man, the crowd giving him a hero's welcome.
The Mundine strategy was to fight from afar in the first three rounds, avoiding the in-fighting which could produce an accidental head clash and a technical draw and give Ellis another pay day. Instead, fans did not get bang for their buck.
Ellis was once a great body puncher, a skill that does not deteriorate too swiftly with age, but it deserted him last night.
Ellis was once an industrial-strength in-fighter, a hard-punching bull with a killing body attack, a relentless style and the chin of your average tugboat, but Mundine could have knocked him out in round one when a short right jab on the chin wobbled the former world lightweight champion. Only once did he attempt to maul and outmuscle Mundine on the ropes, but it was a shortlived flurry.
Even by professional boxing's corrupt and capricious standards, it was a cynical promotion, appealing to our basest instincts.
Nobody can argue any longer that, long-term, boxing is any good for you, but this fight did serve the purpose of giving Ellis a clean bill of health.
The VPBC board declared Ellis fit last month and last night was a sterner test than those runs on a treadmill with wires attached.
Yet an opponent with good lateral movement and a crisp jab was always going to give him trouble, and Mundine is 10 years younger and 2kg heavier.
Even in round two, Ellis's face was smeared with blood running from his right eye and his legs were backpedalling shakily.
After only two rounds, he had reached the end of a short tether and wore the desperate look of a man who wanted only one thing - a place in the night to hide.
He lost his future and his past in the same instant he collapsed on one knee on the canvas in the third round.
It has always been stupid celebrating a fighter such as Ellis for his ability to take a punch, especially when it is obvious he has no hope of ever returning one and even more so when he returns to the ring after an absence of six years.
The stink of easy money in the air and the prospect of a mismatch did not deter the 8500 fans who paid up to $100 a ticket, filling the arena and registering the biggest Melbourne boxing attendance since the rematch between Jeff Fenech and Azumah Nelson at Princes Park 10 years ago.
Nobody this side of a Roman emperor wants an athlete to be a sacrifice for our entertainment but last night's crowd went close, with a brawl in the ring and another in the stands.