Cairns Mundraby at crossroads
FRED Mundraby is on the ropes. Out of the corner of his eye he can see someone reaching for a towel and for once in his life he is thinking of giving in.
His boxing career has not turned out the way he had hoped.
At 25, Mundraby is one of Australia's top boxing talents but instead of contesting international titles he is considering walking away from the sport forever.
He is no longer "100 per cent" committed to boxing. This week he graduated from a ranger's course and is planning to spend his all-to-early retirement as a tour guide in his hometown of Yarrabah.
It would be a crime, say those involved in Australian boxing, to see one of the country's top talents leave the sport, but there is little that can be done to stop it.
"It's frustrating," Mundraby said after a training session at his Woree gym this week.
"I'm coming into my prime and I feel deadly. I feel rock hard and ready to fight. But I can't find anyone to fight me."
Mundraby has not given up on the dream completely.
It was 5pm on a Thursday afternoon when he spoke to The Weekend Post, and the 52kg fighter was dripping with sweat and preparing for his evening workout.
"I'm staying in shape so that when the call comes in, I'm ready," he said.
'I don't want to waste time getting my weight down. I want to be preparing for my opponent."
He was caught unprepared in the past and it was the worst feeling of his professional career.
He can still remember the pain in his jaw from his regional title debut against Ryo Akoha last July.
"I thought I was invincible going into that fight," said Mundraby, who had a perfect 11-0 record before his corner stopped the fight before the sixth round.
"I hadn't been stopped in Australia. Hadn't really been hurt, but I found out what it took to fight against those top guys."
Akoha broke Mundraby's jaw in the first round and although the Australian hopeful recovered and regained momentum, his corner, led by highly respected Fortitude Boxing trainer Steve Dellar, stopped the fight.
In the following 12 months he stepped into the ring only twice and his most serious fight was a bout of homesickness brought on by the fact he and wife Michelle wanted a stable environment to raise their six-year-old daughter Isabelle.
In August, the couple moved home to Cairns, forcing Mundraby to walk away from another shot at WBC's Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation title against Taiki Eto this month.
'We wanted to come back here and I would go to camp in Brisbane when it was time to fight," Mundraby said.
"But it didn't work out. I was only going to get four weeks to prepare and I didn't think I would be prepared to take on a fighter of that calibre, so I had to walk away."
Cairns is hardly the ideal base for an international boxing career, but Mundraby has teamed up with his fiercely loyal boyhood trainer Bobby Burrows, who is managing affairs from his new home in Mt Isa.
"We are hoping to stage some fights in Mt Isa or Cairns early next year," Burrows said.
"Hopefully something comes through and we can get him back on track."
The pair have the backing of a major ally in the form of WBC's Australian representative Brad Vocale, who is a big believer in the 25-year-old's talent.
"Fred is one of the most talented fighters in Australia," Vocale said.
"It just depends on which Fred turns up. If the bad Fred turns up you or I could beat him, but if the good Fred turns up then he could beat Mike Tyson."
Vocale is using his position to look for a regional title for Mundraby to contest. An Asian or Oceanic title win would automatically put him on the world ranking list and turn him into a candidate for international fights.
"It's on Fred now," Vocale said.
"He needs to reignite his career because it would be stupid to see him walk away with the talent he has."
Mundraby must now decide if he wants to get off the ropes and fight for his career or watch the white towel fly into the ring.
"I'm 25. Your prime is 26 to about 32, if you look after yourself," he said.
"I want to keep fighting and winning belts and testing myself, but I've got a family to look after.
"And I'm going to do what's right by them. I don't know how it's going to turn out."
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Career decisions: Fred Mundraby is weighing his options and no longer feels 100 per cent committed to his sport. Picture: MIKE WATT