The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Boxing / The Top 11 Australian Boxers of All-Time

The Top 11 Australian Boxers of All-Time

The best from Australia to ever do it!
CIRCA 1900: Australian boxer James Leslie "Les" Darcy poses for a portrait, circa 1900. (Photo by The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty Images)

George Kamobosos upset of Teofimo Lopez has led, of course, to me compiling this list. No, you will not see Kostya Tszyu or Vic Darchinyan on this list because they are not Australian.  Australia has a deep boxing history, and today we will take a deeper look at the most extraordinary Australians ever to box.

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11) Lester Ellis

In 1985, with a professional boxing record of 14 fights for 14 wins, 11 by K.O. at 19, Ellis was offered to fight Hwan-Kil Yuh for the Super Featherweight International Boxing Federation (IBF) World Title. Ellis won this fight for the scheduled 15 rounds via split decision. Ellis successfully defended his title the same year against Rod Sequenan. Later that year, on July 12 1985, Ellis lost his IBF world championship via unanimous decision to ex training partner and then rival Barry Michael.

10) Rocky Mattioli

He defended the title twice before losing it to Maurice Hope in 1979 by TKO. In 1980, he had a rematch with Hope but again was TKO’d in the 11th round.

9) Michael Katsidis

Katsidis was the epitome of a warrior as he would fight anybody, anyplace, anytime. Katsidis held the interim WBO lightweight title twice, but notable titles eluded him, losing all four times he challenged for them. Regardless, Katsidis’s all-or-nothing style gets him on this list.

8) Dave Sands

Sands was one of three Australians to have held three national titles simultaneously (the others were Billy Grim and Paul Ferreri). Although a natural middleweight, he held the middle, light-heavy and heavyweight championships simultaneously from 1950 until his death.

7) Daniel Geale

Geale held and defended the IBO middleweight title before losing it via split decision to Anthony Mundine. He then did what many thought almost impossible and won the IBF middleweight title over German Sebastian Sylvester in Germany.

He defended this title four times, picking up the WBA super world middleweight title along the way, once again beating a German in Germany, this time Felix Sturm.

With his only losses being to Anthony Mundine, Darren Barker, Gennady Golovkin, Miguel Cotto and Renold Quinlan, Geale had an excellent career.

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6) Jeff Harding

Harding turned professional in 1986, and in 1989 won the WBC Light Heavyweight Title with a 12th round TKO over Dennis Andries in only his 15th professional fight. He defended the title twice before losing the belt via K.O. in 1990 in a rematch with Andries. In 1991 he recaptured the WBC Light Heavyweight Title by taking a majority decision over Andries in their third match. He defended the belt twice before losing the title in 1994 to Mike McCallum by unanimous decision.

5) Lionel Rose

He was the first Aboriginal person to win a world boxing title.

Rose was age 16 when he made his professional boxing debut, and at age 18, he had already won the Australian bantamweight title. At age 19, he won the world bantamweight title with a 15-round decision (a fight whose outcome is determined by judges’ scoring) over Masahiko (“Fighting”) Harada of Japan. Rose successfully defended his title three times before being knocked out by Mexican great Ruben Olivares in the fifth round.

4) Johnny Famechon

Johnny Famechon fought during the golden period of Australian Boxing and became Australia’s third world boxing champion. A match was made against classy Cuban Jose Legra for the world featherweight title at Albert Hall in London on January 21, 1969. In a very tough encounter, Famechon outpointed Legra to become the world’s champion. Next, he defended his crown against former world flyweight and bantamweight king, the tough-as-nails Fighting Harada of Japan, in July 1969 at Sydney Stadium. The referee Willie Pep initially declared the fight a draw, then controversially awarded it to Famechon. However, any doubt was removed six months later when Famechon knocked Harada out in the 14th round in a Tokyo rematch. Fammechon called it a career upon returning to Australia in May 1970 after he surrendered the title to Mexican Vicente Saldivar in a close contest. The fast-moving clever boxer never fought again.

3) Young Griffo

Griffo fought in the late nineteenth century and retired early in the twentieth century. Griffo was one of the greatest defensive fighters in boxing history. He was known to not train for fights, and sometimes maybe he came in after having a drink or two, but this Aussie was an all-time great fighter. Griffo fought three draws with George Dixon, which could have gone Griffo’s way had the rules allowed the rendering of a decision. He also lost a controversial decision to Hall of Famer Jack McAuliffe, who barely landed a glove on Griffo over ten rounds. If Griffo had taken Boxing seriously, it is hard to tell how great he could have been, but he would probably stand at number one on this list if he had.

2) Jeff Fenech

Fenech, in 1984, made his debut in the professional ranks and, within six months, was a top-ranked contender for the International Boxing Federation version of the world bantamweight title. In his seventh fight, he was matched against Satoshi Shiungaki for the world title and dominated en route to a ninth-round technical knockout. Over the next four years, Fenech proved himself to be one of the world boxing stars and added world crowns at super-bantamweight and featherweight to his collections. One of his victims during this time was Steve McCrory of the USA, who took the Olympic title that Fenech had aspired to in L.A. After 24 successive wins, Fenech retired at the start of 1990 due in the main part to a series of hand injuries, but returned to the ring in 1991 and lost his perfect record via a draw with veteran Ghanaian Azumah Nelson. Fenech was the consensus winner over Nelson, and most thought that Fenech would beat Nelson in the rematch that was fought in Australia. Still, it was not to be as the Legendary Nelson would stop Fenech and right the final chapter of Fenech’s career.

1) Les Darcy

Young Darcy’s boyish personality and outstanding ability made him a national sporting hero, particularly among the Irish Catholic working-class population. He began his career at the tender age of 15, and he was immensely popular from the start of his career. Darcy cut a swath through the best middleweights in the world. The list of victims included Frank Loughery, Mick King, world championship claimant Eddie McGourty, Jimmy Clabby, KO Brown, Australian heavyweight champion Harold Hardwick, Les O’Donnell, Buck Crouse, and George Chip, another claimant to the world title. Darcy died of infected tonsils, and his funeral was attended by over 200,000 in Sydney, Australia. Darcy’s death represented a promise unfulfilled. Darcy fought 50 times, lost just four and won 29 of his 46 knockouts. Though never recognized in the US, Darcy’s two fights against Jeff Smith were billed as being for the world title, as were two other wars against Mick King and Eddie McGoorty.

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