Geale lets his skill do the talking

MARK Baker says: Smokin' Joe Frazier was never the showman his rival Muhammad Ali was; he stayed away from political commentary, didn't engage in trash talk and let his boxing do the talking.

Ali, on the other hand, ridiculed Frazier mercilessly. He said he was "too ugly to be champion", called him a "gorilla" and an "Uncle Tom".

In many ways, their interactions were echoed in the lead-up and wash-up of the IBF middleweight fight between Anthony Mundine and Daniel Geale.

Mundine was brash and arrogant - always looking to grab the spotlight with a sound bite, regardless of how offensive it might be.

I'm not comparing Mundine to Ali - Mundine is the only person who will ever make that comparison.

Geale was understated and principled, even when Mundine questioned his Aboriginality, drew his wife into the bile and reused Ali's "Uncle Tom" accusation.

Geale's composure reminded me of Frazier and, in particular, the creed he attached to both his life and boxing.

"You can map out a fight plan or a life plan," Frazier said. "But when the action starts, it may not go the way you planned, and you're down to your reflexes - that means your preparation.

"That's where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, well, you're going to get found out now, under the bright lights."

If you were looking to teach budding sportsmen and women how to conduct themselves under the bright lights, you could not find a greater contrast than Geale and Mundine.

Outside the ring, Mundine missed a real opportunity to promote unity when he belittled Geale's Aboriginal heritage.

There are plenty of fair-skinned Aboriginals who cop grief for identifying with their heritage and there's probably plenty more who do not identify with their heritage for fear of being howled down by people like Mundine.

Inside the ring, Mundine used questionable tactics; raising his elbows to fend off Geale and dropping his head to clash with Geale's.

When the unanimous points decision went Geale's way, Mundine left the ring without shaking hands, later claiming the judges had robbed him.

He missed a real chance to redeem himself in the public's eye. Imagine if he'd apologised to Geale and his wife for his comments and congratulated him on the win.

Of course, it's easy for a victorious sportsman to be gracious but Geale was particularly so given the enmity of Mundine's rhetoric in the lead-up.

He congratulated Mundine for a hard fight, complimented his condition and said he had to dig deep to beat the challenger.

He thanked his supporters, trainers, coach and all of Tasmania and made particular note of his wife and children.

And he spoke with genuine joy about having to get up early to take his youngest child to her first day of kindergarten.

How proud his family must be of his achievements.

How proud his home state and home city should be too of this exemplar good sport.


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