Millions of eyes turned to the big screen last week to see the historic boxing bout between Anthony Mundine and Belarussian Sergey Rabchenko fought in the Hisense Arena at Melbourne Park, but one fortunate local fellow was there.
Aaron Diehm is a huge Mundine fan and has long followed his sporting career. ‘I am a foundation member of team Mundine, which is Anthony’s support network’, says Diehm. ‘I flew to Melbourne to offer my support as Mundine went into the fight as the underdog – he is 39 and heading towards the end of his career. Rabchenko is 28 and has won his last 25 fights, 18 by knockout!
‘If Anthony lost it would probably have been his last fight so I wanted to be there to celebrate a great career.’
Aaron’s role on the day was to be part of the support team for pre-fight lead up and training and to assist in the team Mundine corner. ‘I was also part of the crew who escorted him to and from the ring before and after the fight’, said Diehm. ‘It has been a long-held dream.’
Aaron says the atmosphere at Melbourne Park was electric with around 9,000 people packing out Hisense arena. ‘I thought Anthony seemed amazingly calm and centred’, he said. ‘He was very determined and I think spurred on by the fact he was being touted as the underdog.
‘Pre-fight he locked down the entire area and there was a blanket ban on anyone in the dressing room except his immediate crew. I felt very lucky to be part of it all.’
Mundine is known for his capacity to ‘meet and greet’, hype and build up and plenty of distraction. ‘This time he was just completely focused. I have never seen him so determined and it showed in the ring.
‘I thought the fight was very close but I felt Anthony had done enough to win.’
Mundine, whose record to date is now 47 wins from 53 fights (27 by knockout), beat the Belarussian 11 years his junior in a split-point decision. Rabchenko’s record was until that point unblemished with 25 wins from 25 fights (18 by knockout). ‘I was in the ring when the announcement was made and it was just the best feeling ever’, says Aaron. ‘We were all over the moon!’
Diehm says that Mundine was very relived after what was a tough fight. ‘He just wanted to be surrounded by his family and the team Mundine crew. He was rather emotional. It was a great moment in his career and I will never forget being part of it all.’
Mundine won in a very close split after the Swiss judge gave the fight to Rabchenko 115–113, and the two Australian judges saw a local win with 115–113 and 116–112.