Pop! Goes the Punt: Back-to-Back at Moonee Valley – The Sweet Science Meets the Sport of Kings

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“I win for me! FOR ME!”  
Ivan Drago in ‘Rocky IV’

“I must break you”  
Again, Ivan Drago in ‘Rocky IV’

When Sugar Shane Mosley walked out on the much-hyped Mundine fight, it got me to thinking about the high-stakes, high-farce world of boxing and its company of hangers-on whose inside word you wouldn’t take across the street. From here it’s a short half-head to the celebrated world of horse racing. Tony and Horty Mokbel and Pillar of Hercules; Mick Gatto saving racehorses from the knackers, and any number of other “colourful racing identities”. It makes you wonder why the sport has not been linked with boxing more often.

With that in mind, here’s Saturday’s form with the vision of Joe Frazier after 14 rounds in Manila.

Friday night, Race 8: Manikato Stakes (1200m)

3. Temple of Boom ($15 each-way)

Should you stumble upon The Good Son: The Life of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini by Mark Kriegel, buy it.

From how Mancini’s love of boxing was handed down by his father Lenny (the original “Boom Boom”) and shaped by growing up in the rust-belt of Youngstown, Ohio; to the fallout of the Duk Koo Kim fight1, it is a read as compelling as the man himself.

Sylvester Stallone produced Mancini’s life story as a movie of the week in 1985… the same year that Rocky IV hit the big screen.

Race 2: Mitchelton Wines Vase (2040 metres)

4. Drago ($20 the win); 9: Thunder Fantasy ($10 each-way)

My top-three all-time hardest losses to take in sport (in reverse chronological order) are:

  1. 1993 AFL Grand Final
  2. 1986 VFL Grand Final
  3. The Drago-Creed fight in ‘Rocky IV’

The Drago-Creed fight was the first time I’d really been devastated by a sports result, albeit a fictional one. Given this occurred close to 30 years ago, let me walk you through it.

First, a couple of things you need to know about Ivan Drago – 1) he thinks he is unbeatable, and 2) he is married to a mid-80s Brigitte Nielsen, so that confidence has a reasonable footing. 

Drago (in the gold trunks with red sickle) is making his entry into professional fighting. Apollo Creed (in the stars and stripes), now 42-years old, is coming out of retirement.

James Brown sings “Living in America”. Drago murmurs to Creed, “You will lose”.

It is the Cold War writ large.

What happens from here is that Apollo Creed gets P-O-U-N-D-E-D. Rocky (in Apollo’s corner), despite the protests from Apollo (and my screaming), should have thrown in the towel.

A final blow from Drago to the head of Apollo kills him. Literally kills him (well, fictionally-literally kills him) just as Rocky finally drops the towel.  Apollo dies in Rocky’s arms in the middle of the ring.

Despite the fight ending in a death, it is a technical knockout to Drago, who after the fight exhibits no remorse. None.

“If he dies, he dies.”


Still, we’ll have $20 on it and hope he gets beaten by a nose in his next race by Balboa (is there such a horse, and if not, why not?).

In 1990, Jimmy Thunder was huge. Heavyweight huge. Well, let’s walk it back a bit. Although he was Samoan, he was Australia’s most popular heavyweight in a year Jeff Fenech took off after winning the WBC Featherweight Championship (becoming a world champion in three different weight divisions).

After going 9-0 early in his career with a TKO against J.B Williamson at Broadbeach, there was much hype around Thunder, given none of his nine fights had gone the distance. Mike Tyson had just suffered his first loss to Buster Douglas at the Tokyo Dome, and boxing fans in Australia were starting to think how far Jimmy Thunder?

Then, in his tenth fight, he was knocked out in the fourth by Mike “The Bounty Hunter” Hunter.

Although he would go on to twice win the Australian Heavyweight title (against Craig Peterson and Don Mackay), the hype around Thunder was never the same.

Not even in 1997, when Thunder wrote himself into boxing folklore with the fastest knockout in boxing history, flooring Crawford Grimsley less than two seconds into the fight.

Race 6: Four-Years-Old and Five-years-Old Handicap (1200m)

3. Go The Knuckle ($15 each-way)

‘Knuckle’  is a documentary on the secretive world of bare-knuckle boxing by Irish gypsies – and yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

This documentary follows a dozen years in the lives of three families – the Nevins, Joyces and Quinns – and their feuds, fights and general batshit craziness.

It is a gripping tale of passion, respect and blood bonds that will never end two hours of drunken, dickhead Irishmen belting the feck outta each other for entertainment.

Race 10: The Cox Plate (2040m)

11. It’s a Dundeel  ($20 the win)

Little bit of license here, so as to throw in a tip for the feature race… the favourite no less. Spurious? No more that the entire premise supporting this column.

Angelo Dundee was a boxing trainer and cornerman, most known for his work with Muhammad Ali2.

But my favourite Dundee story is from his work with a little-known, used-up heavyweight, Johnny Holman.

Holman was an 8-1 outsider against a fighter named Ezzard Charles. The first thing Dundee did to get his fighter in the game was to give him a moniker, ‘Big Jawn’.

“Every time he came into the gym, ‘Hey Big Jawn, you’re looking good.’ Got everybody to say it, until he started believing it.”3.

Big Jawn’s dream was to make enough money to buy a house with shuttered windows. When Charles was punching seven kinds of shit outta him towards the end of their fight, Dundee hissed to a staggering Big Jawn, “That man is stealing your house, taking the shutters off.”

Big Jawn won in the ninth.

‘Big Jawn’ is a great name for a horse. Someone make this happen.


Last week: A collect of $138 on Dear Demi in the Caulfield Cup
Carnival to date: -$80 ($300 outlay for a $220 return)


1. The Caesars Palace bout was filled with action, but Kim suffered brain injuries from the fight that led to his death four days later. Mancini fell into deep depression after attending the funeral in South Korea, a depression compounded by people approaching him and asking if he was the boxer who killed Duk Koo Kim. 

2. He also worked with Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman… and Russell Crowe (for ‘Cinderella Man’).

3. From Robert Lipsyte’s New York Times obituary of Dundee.

About The People's Elbow

I'm just trying to make a difference in people's lives - get off my sack.


  1. Read an article on the Duk Koo Kim fight not that long back – great read. Also the only time I ever rushed anywhere to watch a flight live on TV was for Jimmy Thunder – probably the fight he lost since I can’t really remember too much about it. We came across him playing volley ball in a park while on excursion in Melbourne and I have the photo to prove it somewhere. Good win on Dear Demi.

  2. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Litza, you take me back. I sat in the pictures in early 1986 chanting ‘Rocky’, ‘Rocky’ and I allowed part of me to believe that he could actually beat Drago. Then I watched Raw :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMqMKxJJYvY
    The realism…

  3. Litza’s – great to see you are about even in the carnival to date.

    I cried for a fortnight when Marvelous Marvin Hagler got rolled. I can relate.

  4. Brilliant!

    May I throw in a couple.

    Friday Night, Race 2: Triforce Subzero Challenge (1500m)

    Back: Auld Burns

    Canadian born Auld Tommy Burns was one of the greatest heavyweights of the turn of the century. Although only 5 ft 7″ he was the Red Cadeux of his day, taking on all comers in all corners of the globe. After winning the title as a 2-1 underdog he successfully defended it 11 times over 2 years.

    One of the few fighters of his age to ignore the colour bar, he is best remembered for his 1908 open air fight in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney against Jack Johnson, one of the greatest fighters ever. Although weighing in at 76kg after a bought of influenza, he lasted 14 rounds in the blazing Sydney summer heat against the 87kg Johnson, who became the first black heavyweight to win the title when police stopped the fight in the 14th round.

    After retiring he ran a speakesy but was siped out in the great depression. Like later heavyweight champion Big George Foreman he became an evangelist, and was ordained in 1948. Four mourners attended his funeral in 1955 and he was buried in an unmarked grave.

    Lay: King Magnusson

    ‘King’ Carl Magnusson was a very ordinary American middleweight of the 1940’s who fought exclusively in the state of Maine . His career record stood at 3-6-0-9. His best performance was lasting 3 rounds against Jim Corbett in 1944. Unfortunately world Heavyweight Champion ‘Gentleman’ Jim Corbett died in 1933. King Magnusson was always destined for the knackery.

    Race 5: Essendon Mazda Challenge (955m)

    Lay: Magnus Reign

    He never will. Flyweight Joe Magnus lost all his 3 fights in the 1910’s, but only one by knockout.

    Race 7: The Drain Man Country Cup (1600m)

    Back: New York

    Home of Madison Square Garden . Enough said.

    Lay: Lord Durante

    Paul Durante, Californian light-middleweight, went 0-6 in the 1990’s. Also enough said.

    Race 8: Manikato Stakes (1200m)

    Lay: Lucky Nine

    Rocky Marciano, boxing’s only undefeated heavyweight champion, retired with a 49 win record after knocking out his last opponent the champion Archie Moore in the ninth. In 1969 he died in a light aircraft crash.

    Nine was definitely not luck for the Rock.

    Saturday: Cox Plate (2040m)

    Lay: Long John

    John Long went 19-9 in the cruiserweight division in the US in the 1990’s. His best effort was a 9 round TKO loss to former middleweight champion Thomas ‘the Hitman’ Hearns in 2005. The Hitman was 48 years old.

    Back: Masked Marvel

    Like Ltza I am using a bit of poetic licence here to get a tip in on the plate, but two different Masked Marvels have won the world wrestling heavyweight championship. The Cox Plate is the heavyweight WFA championship of Australasia (we’re kidding ourselves if we think it beats the Arc for the world championship). But that’s good enough for me.

  5. I watched “Knuckle” the other week.
    Couldn’t feckin believe what I was seeing.

  6. Djlitsa, is this the read? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/sports/families-continue-to-heal-30-years-after-title-bout-between-ray-mancini-and-duk-koo-kim.html?_r=0

    Phil, Raw was just about the greatest thing ever for a 15-year-old who had just introduced ‘f***’ into conversation.

    Dips, was that the Sugar Ray Leonard fight in 1987?

    Thanks, Crio – knew there had to be a Balboa somewhere, although after an 8-year spell, I reckon Stallone would almost be able to outrun him.

    Jesus, Archie, you’re gonna make me redundant…

    Smokie, not only could I not feckin believe what I was seeing, I also couldn’t understand a fecking word they were saying… thank God for the subtitles.

  7. Litza – yes it was. Then I was equally sad when Roberto Duran beat Sugar Ray Leonard in their first bout – I think 1980?.

  8. Warren Zevon was a friend of Mancini’s and wrote a good song ‘Boom Boom Mancini’ including reference to the death of Duk Koo Kim. Wonderfully weird cat, that Zevon. Anybody know any other good songs about boxing?

  9. ajc, I am extremely biased, but try “The Warrior’s Code”
    by the Dropkick Murphys.

  10. http://m.bleacherreport.com/articles/980578-10-songs-most-associated-with-boxing

    Try these, oh and Dylan has a song. What’s it called?

  11. ajc, Warren Zevon was a wonderfully weird cut.

    Unfortunately he is most widely known for ‘Werewolves of London’ and not for his broader canon of work – particularly his last album recorded shortly after being diagnosed with an inoperable cancer. That album (‘The Wind’), listened to in that context, is incredible.

    I’d bet all the money in my pockets that anyone who listens to the last track ‘Keep Me In Your Heart’ will contemplating their own mortality for the best part of the day… it’s a long way from “Asoooooo! Werewolves of London!”

  12. For Warren: Desperadoes Under The Eves, The French Inhaler, Carmelita, Accidentally Like a Martyr. He was damned good. Saw him at the Universal Theatre in Fitzroy in about 86? An audience of a dozen and WZ off his face on something secret and good.

    The Dropkick song is good. But feel I must counter with The Pogues Body of an American, the dude in the song refused to throw a fight and was thereby rooted. Always think of Baltimore’s finest in The Wire when one of them had been killed on duty, playing that song and knocking back whiskey (with an e) as they sang along. Bunk and McNutty etc. Always sent me straight for the bottle and the hifi.

  13. Keep Me In Your Heart is a wonderful song. And these lines are as good as it gets.

    “Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house
    Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
    You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
    Keep me in your heart for awhile”.

    We played this song as part of my brother’s eulogy. He died at 39, way too early. This song finished the service. Just beautiful.

    WZ is one of the kings of songwriters. As ajs points out, he has been writing these touching, evocative songs for a long time now.

  14. Andrew Starkie says:

    Watched ‘Knuckle’. Both mesmerised and saddened me. i work with Irish social workers who have worked with travellers. Lots of issues: domestic violence, health problems, short life expectancy and social and educational exclusion . The film failed to directly address gender roles, but the fact the women only featured in one scene said a great deal. Also, he maker was smart enough not to ask where they got their money from. As mum always says, thank god we got out of there.

  15. DBalassone says:

    Rick, are you referring to Dylan’s “Who Killed Davey Moore?”

    Echo the Zevon sentiments here, love the man – I think Rick and I discussed a list of his best work on this site a few months back. Though I still believe that his 2nd last album “My Ride’s Here” was superior to the last one, which got more publicity for obvious reasons…

    Albert Einstein was a ladies man
    While he was working on his universal plan
    He was making out like Charlie Sheen
    He was a genius

  16. And if California slides into the ocean
    Like the mystics and statistics say it will
    I predict this hotel will be standing
    Until I pay my bill

  17. DBalassone says:

    Love it AJC. Beautiful song. Also love that line “don’t the trees look like crucified thieves”, you can really feel the hot Californian sun. Could go on about Zevon for hours, a few other songs that spring to mind not mentioned above are “Empty-Handed Heart”, “The Heartache” and “Tule’s Blues” (the version from Preludes).

  18. Rick Kane says:

    Well called DB on the Dylan song (I meant his other song but I would trust you to remind us of that gem). And great call on Genius, my fave Zevon song.

  19. ajc,
    “Body of An American’ is one of MacGowan’s finest.

  20. Jackson Browne wrote a song “Ready or Not” about meeting his first wife (things did not end well) and becoming a father for the first time. It is on his 1973 second album “For Everyman”. The unemployed actor in this verse was Warren Zevon:
    “I met her in a crowded barroom
    One of those typical Hollywood scenes
    I was doing my very best Bogart
    But I was having trouble getting into her jeans
    I punched an unemployed actor
    Defending her dignity
    He stood up and knocked me through that barroom door
    And that girl came home with me”
    As for boxing songs there was of course Dylan’s “Hurricane” about Ruben Carter “the number one contender for the middleweight crown; had no idea what kind of shit was about to go down”. Always handy with a rhyme our Bob.
    Johnny Wakelin had a big hit in 1974 with Black Superman (Muhammad Ali) “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.
    It had a chintzy Boney M type melody, but the sing song lyric made it impossible to get out of your head even when you hated it.
    As Cassius Clay he did release his own album in 1963 after beating Liston, called “I am the Greatest”. It had a cover of “Stand by Me” that reached #102 on the charts.

  21. Rick Kane says:

    Thanks PB for the Jackson Browne reference.

    Closer to home, Lionel Rose was both a pugilist and a bit of a balladeer.

    Paul Kelly and Archie Roach gave us Rally Round The Drum and Midnight Oil gave us Jimmy Sharman’s Boxers.


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