Last Updated on January 14, 2023 by Faiza Murtaza
When boxing training in Perth at Champions Gym, you may have dreams of becoming the next Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, or Sugar Ray Leonard. However, what you may notice about lists of boxing legends is that they lack Australian talents. So, just who are the best boxers to come out of Australia?
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Firstly, how can any guide on Australian boxers exist without mentioning Kostya Tszyu? Although Tszyu was born in the Soviet Union and fought under this nationality in the amateur ranks, he soon emigrated to Australia before turning professional. Soon enough, he earned the nickname the Thunder from Down Under and became world champion in 1995 after beating Jake Rodriguez.
Though Tszyu was defeated by Vince Phillips, he bounced back and became the interim WBC champion towards the end of the 1990s. Before long, he recorded victories against Zab Judah, Jesse James Leija, Julio Cesar Chavez, and others. Sadly, everything came to an end in 2005 when he was beaten by Brit Ricky Hatton.
With a professional record of 56-6-6, it’s fair to say that Johnny Famechon is another that garnered a fearsome reputation in the boxing world. Known for his defensive style, Famechon was a featherweight champion not only in Australia but in the commonwealth and world too.
In 1969, Famechon finally earned a shot at the WBC belt and was victorious against Jose Legra to become champion. Showing determination not to lose it immediately, he beat Fighting Harada twice. Eventually, he lost the belt to Vicente Saldivar and then retired.
In more modern times, we come to a man who won 25 fights in a row – Jeff Fenech. It took Fenech just seven professional fights to win the bantamweight IBF title and he held this title until moving up to super bantamweight and then featherweight. Despite moving up the classes, Fenech continued to win and became a dominant force in the world of boxing.
After a stellar career, it all came down to a three-match series against Azumah Nelson. After a draw in the first match, a rematch was held in Melbourne where thousands of Australians were shocked to watch Nelson win in the eighth round. In 1992, this was declared the upset of the year. After losing to Philip Holiday shortly after, Fenech retired leaving behind a huge legacy for up-and-coming Australian boxers.
You might remember that Fenech vs Nelson was a three-match series, and this is because they fought once again in 2008. Although both men were into their 40s, they put on a show for the crowd and Fenech won by majority decision. Interestingly, Fenech went on to train Mike Tyson briefly and is now in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
While Rose eventually lost 11 fights in his career, he also won 42 and was the first Australian to win a world title…so how could he miss this list? In 1968, Rose fought Fighting Harada and walked away as the bantamweight WBC and WBA world champion.
Ultimately, a large portion of Rose’s defeats came in an unsuccessful comeback in the 1970s, so most boxing fans remember him for the powerful displays in the 1960s. While some ex-boxers go on to become pundits and trainers, Rose tried his hand at singing. His hometown, Warragul, erected a statue in his name and Rose sadly died in 2011.
Australia has never been short of boxing talent, and you can continue your research with the likes of Lester Ellis, Les Darcy, Jeff Harding, and Rocky Mattoli.