Is the heavyweight boxing landscape ready for a New Zealand champion? Shane Cameron, please step forward!

By Bob Hoskins: 2012 will probably bring about the end to a fine career in the form of Vitali Klitschko as he looks to another career in politics. His younger brother may also ponder his future as the dearth of worthy challengers to his titles could well accelerate his retirement also.

The two brothers have sewn up the division completely since the retirement of Lennox Lewis, who in my opinion is possibly the finest of all the champions through the ages! Where the brothers stand in the list of all time greats is unclear due to the perceived lack of top quality opposition they had to face.

The retirement of one or both brothers brings me to the title of this piece. There are currently four major titles whereby the holder of such belt can consider himself to be its “world champion.” Of course there can be only one lineal champ but since the fracturing of the various writers in the 60’s, multiple champions in any one weight class is what we have to contend with. With the Ukranian behemoths retired what chance of little New Zealand putting forward one of its own for a tilt at a strap?

Whilst New Zealand is only a small country of just over four million people, it does have some pedigree in the world of boxing. Whilst never producing a heavyweight world champion, two challengers have emerged from down under. Tom Heeney lost in 11 rounds to Gene Tunney at New York’s Yankee Stadium in 1928, and David Tua was outpointed by Lennox Lewis in 2000 in Las Vegas.

The country can however lay claim to having a world champion when “Torpedo” Billy Murphy ko’d Ike Weir in the 14th round in San Franciso in 1890 and in addition Tom Morgan was New Zealand’s first Olympic gold medalist in any sport when he won the 1928 welterweight title in Amsterdam.

The name Shane Cameron might not resonate with many people outside of the Asia Pacific region but he may well be about to put himself in a very favourable position in any future match-ups for a title, with the WBO being the most likely pathway at this time. For those not familiar with him, he has a 28-2 record with 21 of those coming inside the scheduled distance. His only reverses came at the hands of the very durable Friday Ahunanya who managed to come from behind and stop Cameron after inflicting some nasty cuts round Shane’s eyes preventing him seeing the blows raining in on him. The other defeat was inflicted by the heavy handed David Tua, who managed to catch Shane in the first round with one of his wicked trademark hooks and finished him off in the second. Cameron is certainly not alone in being stopped by the ‘Tuaman”, and the blessing in this defeat is he didn’t sustain a prolonged beat-down which makes a fighter age overnight.

Shane’s fought and beat all the best that this region has to offer with several international fighters also succumbing to the man from Gisborne, ironically the birthplace of Tom Heeney. In addition, he has stepped down to cruiserweight and won the Commonwealth belt, which is always a great launchpad for a tilt at a world title. Whilst not a big heavy, he’s mentioned he’ll now fight at about 96kg when campaigning as a heavyweight. This is considerably lighter than his previous bouts in this class yet he feels better for it and not sluggish when carrying more weight whilst fighting the bigger men.

Shane’s not a massive puncher yet still boasts a 70% ko rate which is very impressive for a man fighting men invariably bigger than himself. His work rate, will to win and ability to fight through the pain barrier (he’s broken his right hand 3 times in the 1st round and gone on to win), are testament to this prizefighter’s character. In a boxing world of flamboyant, trash-talking and narcissistic fighters, the “Mountain Warrior” is like a throwback to a former age, soft y spoken, unassuming and dedicated to his craft.

Standing in the way of Shane jumping into the top 10 world rankings is his next opponent, Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett who has a 35-9-2 record with 20 ko’s. Whilst getting on in years, he has a tremendous pedigree and has fought a who’s who of the heavyweight elite through his career. Three times he’s fought for the heavyweight title, twice losing on points. Last time out he beat David Tua on points in a return bout after a disputed draw in Atlantic City where he managed to put the Tuaman on the canvas for the first time in his career. Monte’s a fine boxer with a fair amount of power so this is the typical crossroads fight for both men. Win and a legitimate shot for the title is on the cards as a top 10 ranking puts you in the spotlight. Lose and resign yourself to campaigning at the second tier of fighters or those “hotshots” being groomed for stardom who can add your name to their record.

Being an expat Brit living down here in New Zealand I see a parallel between Shane and a now sadly departed Henry Cooper. Both prone to being “bleeders”, both fighting bigger men and both guys full of courage. I just hope Shane can go a couple of steps further and pick up a version of the world title. What a buzz for the people of little New Zealand to hear the words of Michael Buffer proclaiming “and the new heavyweight world champion from New Zealand, Shane Cameron”!

Article posted on 16.06.2012

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