Revenge: The Rematches

Now that the AFL 2014 Preliminary Finals are set, it’s time to delve into a theme that has been bubbling throughout this year’s Finals.


No, this isn’t the Aussie Rules version of Channel 7’s extra sudsy Hamptons’ imported melodrama. There is no manufactured drama here, but there is real emotion. A deeply unrequited thirst in each remaining team, which they will look to quench next week.

Ironically, for the sporting omnivores out there, this theme crystallises as another related event – Floyd Mayweather’s latest pay-per-view ‘extravaganza’ (ahem … *cough* ripoff *cough*) – eventuates, while riffing on the same theme.

Fighting in his first rematch in twelve years, Mayweather is looking to repeat, improve on even, what he did earlier in the year, against the surprisingly robust challenge of Argentinian firecracker, Marcos Maidana.

On the other hand, Maidana, a victim of what he saw as unjust scoring in a surprisingly close fight wants revenge … Against Mayweather. Against the boxing judges. Against the petty grandstanding that saw him punitively disallowed from using his preferred gloves, in the original encounter this past May.

Unfortunately, all the manufactured ‘mayhem’ (as this afternoon’s fight is being billed) serves to reinforce just how pale an imitation to the real thing, the theme of this fight card is. Especially seeing as it is an acknowledged antecedent of the universally recognised greatest pay-per-view boxing event ever – nigh on twenty years ago now – Revenge: The Rematches.

That was a five fight main card – all for lineal World Championships, not paper titles – featuring four eagerly anticipated rematches of hotly contested matches in the previous year. The original results were a pugilistic connoisseur’s gastronomic delight, combining controversy, mild surprise, nails-to-the-quick-biting suspense and genuinely shocking outcomes. All exclusively boxing related.

Now, a generation later, in the same building that played host to glory, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a pale mare of each of the above anticipatory virtues (hardly any boxing related) has been trotted out in perfunctory fashion, as fans and competitors alike seemingly just go through the motions.

Apart from the main event, the rest of the fight card is being excoriated as a live-action manifestation of a non-compete clause. One fight, between Johnny Molina and Humberto Soto has a semblance of prospective competitiveness. The rest? Sanctioned virtual executions.

In May of 1994, we instead had the following:
The greatest lighter-weight fighter of all time, undefeated straw-weight and light-flyweight Champion Ricardo ‘Finito’ Lopez opened the show against Kermin Guardia.

Then the rematches.

The ill-fated Gerald McClellan giving the man he dethroned in a brutal five-round war the year before, Julian Jackson an immediate rematch for the Middleweight Championship.

The perennial Azumah Nelson, riding a wave of controversial decisions – one against our own Jeff Fenech – and age defying determination, giving young Texan Jesse James Leija an immediate rematch of their controversial Draw the previous year.

Simon Brown, looking to repeat the dose of KO1 surprise he served to long-time junior-middleweight Champion Terry Norris, the year before.

And the nominal main event, in a night filled with them, the now ‘officially’ conquered, long-time undefeated (starting his career at 87-0 before being gifted a controversial Draw against Pernell Whittaker) ‘El Gran Campeon’ of Mexico, Julio Cesar Chavez was desperately seeking to avenge the shock of his first ever knockdown and subsequent loss to, Frankie ‘The Surgeon’ Randall.

Now that’s how you properly define revenge, boxing style.

Today, the most authentic feelings of revenge are probably radiating out from those hankering for Mayweather’s comeuppance to finally be served, as a result of the numerously charged, convicted and jailed domestic abuser using his platform to chastise the NFL for their ‘backflip’ on Ray Rice.

Statements like ‘… only God can judge me …’ and postulating the necessity for bruising to be visible to constitute abuse, have of course endeared Mayweather further … [sarcasm alert].

And this is boxing’s banner event of 2014?

In twenty years. Look where we have come!

Thankfully, in local sporting news, the revenge angle is both authentic and by tainted associations, unalloyed. The AFL Final 4 pits virtual season long picks for One & Two – Sydney and Hawthorn – against – for the first time in seven years actually, and the first time ever in this current Finals Format predictively – live challenges from Teams Five & Six on the ladder, Port Adelaide and North Melbourne.

We kept hearing stats about only once before had this been done. How hard it was outside the AFL Top 4 come Finals time. But …

Here. We. Are.

And the teams looking for revenge are the nominal favourites, not the unexpected underdogs.

Like Brad Scott said, his team – you know, the lowest ranked one – is the only one to have beaten every other remaining contender this year, while remaining unconquered themselves. His Kangaroos have cut a swathe of revenge to get here, cleaning out regular season conquerors Essendon & Geelong when it mattered most.

And they have well-beaten every other remaining team, if not comfortably, at least decisively in their single meetings over the course of the year. Just not on the grounds where they will prospectively meet over the next two weeks.

Could that play a part?

It’s not inconceivable.

Both Sydney and Hawthorn have the chance for revenge next weekend. Both may well deny they are preoccupied by any such thing. They have all the Finals experience, but with the week off, none of the momentum.

The Hawks especially would be wary of its importance given how often they have squandered the ‘Big Mo’ they unfailingly generate, every game they play. Most notably, late in the third quarter against Port Adelaide & Sydney (their first encounter this year), and early in the third quarter against North Melbourne. The more I saw of Geelong this Finals series, the less I could draw solace as a Hawks fan, from our two recent, seemingly redefining victories against them.

Maybe it’s just me, but over the next two weeks it’s Teams 5 & 6 with money in the bank. Teams 1 & 2 have everything to prove and, it all to do. Will revenge be motivation enough? Or will a new page in contemporary Finals History be written?

For comparison’s sake, that May night of 1994, of the four rematches, the nominal revenge seekers – Julio Cesar Chavez, Terry Norris, Jesse James Leija and Julian Jackson – won three out of four. Not all convincingly, not all without further dollops of controversy heaped in.

Only Julian Jackson was brutally disabused of any illusion of revenge he entertained, by an inescapable First Round onslaught from his conqueror once, now again – KO1 this time – Gerald McClellan. The other three found a way.

Revenge was exacted.

I think Hawthorn & Sydney will make it a point come next Sunday morning, to have it their way. Then for Hawthorn at least, the path of revenge will have one more step to climb.

For Sydney, perhaps one last CoLA sweetened hurrah. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist).


  1. Brilliant read as usual, Gregor. For Port supporters there has been an ongoing sub-narrative of revenge. Chaplin week one, Pearce week two and Burgoyne week three. It seems to be as deeply felt as it is silly.

  2. Love the way you riff across many topics and angles Gregor.
    I would love to see the Prison Bar Magpies make it all the way to the GF. If it is a fine day the MCG prelim should be a real shoot out. Lip smacking. As for revenge, Hawks v Buddy should be the all time grudge match if they make it to the Grand Final. Its been all very smiley on the surface between Buddy and his old team mates, but rejection burns deep in all of us. How many of us have “welcomed” through gritted teeth “how well the ex is doing” with the new bloke.
    In victory revenge, in defeat malice.

  3. Gregor Lewis says

    Thanks Dave. Well put.
    Looked at with a cool head, it does seem silly. Looked at with with the persepecTiVe Brightness dialled up to Fan Strength, wearing the intensifying ‘Flinkers’ (fan blinkers), automatically causes the V-Hold – on what may normally be a completely sound capacity to reason – to go all Skewiff.

    Ahhhhh! The Sound & Fury of the Fan experience. Sometimes, like holy water on a televised exorcism contestant … IT BURNS! IT BUUUUURNNNNSSSSSS!

    What a line to close the show from you Peter! It was a lip-curling thrill to read it … an even greater pleasure to feel it resonate still.

    We need to see a Power/Hinkley advocate expostulate with the wrist cramping enthusiasm of a Craig Foster, when he used to ritually ‘gratify’ himself anytime he talked about ‘Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona’.

    I gotta admit mate, the Coach & Total Team Package at the Power as an uninvested observer is, for mine, second to none.

    There is a sequence of lines in one of my favourite movies, Searching for Bobby Fischer.

    Goes something like this:
    – Teacher: ‘That was a mistake.’
    (pause while we look at his pupil on far side of room at raised competition stage, playing Chess Final coming to same conclusion)
    – Teacher: (whispers) ‘Don’t move until you see it Josh. It’s ‘X’ moves away, but it’s there for you. Don’t move until you see it.’
    – Pupil: ‘I can’t see it.’ (hopelessly expressing the sense he knows the opportunity is there for him, but still being unable to specifically recognise it).
    -Teacher: (calmly repeats) ‘Don’t move until you see it.’
    -Pupil: (still unsure, but calmer now) ‘I can’t see it.’
    -Teacher: ‘Don’t move until you see it.’
    -Pupil: (selects a piece, looks at his opponent, then the board … And the End Begins).

    That was the second half for the Power last night. Each player risked. Not for glory, but with eyes wide open reaching, knowing the Endgame would be played on their terms.

    Boak, Gray, Wingard, Wines et al, KNEW every step they would take to make Freo do what they wanted. And they waited, looked the moment of each step square in the face, then acted without doubt or fear. Without hope or expectation.

    Just knowledge.

    It was spine tingling to watch … even on mute, so as to ensure the horrid commentary wouldn’t spoil it. I could feel the resonance of the noise through the enforced silence. I could see the shape of things to come alter irrevocably with every move the Power made.

    They’ve opened my Hawks up like that too – immaturely last year, with malice a forethought at the AO this year. I expect the knowledge they could do it again will galvanise Hawthorn enough for us to see a game next week ‘as solid as a steel blade … glowing with true magic.’

    I expect the Hawks to win. I hope they ‘know’ enough about themselves to do no such thing, and play to win instead.

    We’ll see.


  4. Hi Gregor

    Great read and speaking from a Swans supporter perspective we still want revenge against North for ’96. I know we beat them in possibly the worst final ever played back in 07, but I for one can’t wait to stick it right to them Friday night. And I dare say every North fan wants revenge for every perceived advantage handed to the Swans over the years whilst North and others have survived on oily rags and not mich more. Isn’t the sub text just wonderful??


  5. Gregor Lewis says

    Hey Stuart.

    Appreciate the kind words & further riffing on the theme.

    Ugly Final in ’07?
    My Hawks loss to the Kangas was ugly, as were their two thrashings against Geelong & Port.

    When did Sydney play ’em?
    Anyway, match wasn’t memorable enough for me to have it handy in the ole RAM slot in me noggin. I’ll take your word for it.

    Either way, if the weather is condusive, this year’s match figures to be a doozy. As Peter noted above, weather permitting Hawks v Port don’t look half-bad either.

    Sub-text. Plain Text. There is no doubt, this year’s Prelims look mouth-wateringly tasty from more angles than a slow-motion John Woo action movie set piece.


  6. Stuart Hunter says

    Sorry mate, it was the elimination final in 08 at ANZ. I was trying to remember how old the kids were as my eldest played Auskick on the ground that night and I managed to be a goal umpire. Can safely say it’s as close as I’ll ever be to being on the ground in a final!!

  7. For anyone interested in the Mayweather-Maidana fight outcome here is a link to a great story on the fight from Rafe Bartholomew on Grantland:
    It finishes with the great line “that this era’s most awe-inspiring performer in the ring is also one of the sport’s least admirable men outside of it. That’s boxing.”

  8. Gregor Lewis says

    I dunno Peter. Part of the problem with Mayweather is, Nothing he does in the ring is awe inspiring IMO. Not because he doesn’t have it in him – the potential has always been evident – but because no-one has ever asked him to produce it.

    He is merely the product of perhaps the last thorough education in US boxing … AND of course his ubiquitous mantra, ‘Hard Work! Dedication.’

    Most fighters of this latest era have go to moves they use to the exclusion of all else and enabling trainers who teach them nothing, acting more like cheerleaders than teachers.

    Mayweather is merely a throwback in terms of boxing education who has redefined the art of self-promotion and public engagement. He also knows when to hold ’em, knows when to fold ’em – already he’s setting the scene for not fighting next May (he says wear & tear & injuries / everyone else says Cotto vs Canelo is likely to usurp that date and most likely would outsell any future Mayweather fight not against Manny Pacquiao) – and he knows when to run too, as Bartholomew cleverly described in his piece.

    But Mayweather is no gambler, despite his occasional Instagram selfies that seem to suggest otherwise, as evidenced by his $30+ million contracted guarantee for every fight on his Showtime contract.

    Mayweather was lucky with his timing initially and intelligently ensured he was able to capitalise on that, by engaging the disenfranchised young black, prospective boxing audience, to blindly follow him … And energising the Latino audience (US Boxing’s lifeblood) to ‘hate’ him and ACTIVELY ROOT for his downfall. All while emancipating himself from the control of any promoter bar himself.
    To me that is the closest thing to awe inspiring about him. Not anything he has done in the ring, perfect as his record may seem.


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