IT HAD all the smudged thumbprints of an ambush.
Nambucca’s Mitchell Whitelaw had just the single fight as a professional boxer – for a highly regarded draw. Even that was last year.
Out of the blue came the offer of a fight against a seasoned craftsman, a Western Australian with 20-plus fights to his name.
Oh, and if Mitchell accepted, the bout was in just two weeks. Trainer Ian ‘Sparra’ Stapleton rolled the dice and it was a lock.
So on a wild Saturday night in Byron Bay on a promotion which featured amateur and professional bouts and cage matches, the young dad Whitelaw stepped through the ropes and unleashed hell.
While a baby as a pro, Mitchell had an outstanding amateur career, where he earned the rap as a technical conductor with up to eight punch combos.
But for this engagement, he wasn’t primed.
”The fitness certainly wasn’t as good as it could be, I mean you don’t lose that basic fitness, but it was a challenge taking it just two weeks out,” Mitchell told the Guardian.
“But I always stay confident and I fought pretty well.”
Humble as ever, Mitchell dominated his opponent.
“He methodically won each of the four rounds and it was unanimous,” Sparra said.
Weighing in at 77.8kg, Mitchell was pleased to “finally have a mark beside the win column”.
Like all things in the boxing game, muttered talk about an ambush derailed, and the execution of the youngster spread quicker than molasses on a summer’s day. The upshot was just as fast – a deal to meet light heavyweight Joel Griffiths at Wests Leagues in Newcastle on October 28, in a match that will be broadcast by Fox Sports.
The ante has also been upped for Mitchell’s stablemate, Mitchel Stapleton, who will fight in Sydney for a State amateur title at the Whitlam Centre this weekend.
Watch the two Mitches sparring:
Meanwhile, Sparra’s lesser known charges have also been finding their mark.
Nambucca Rooster rugby league player Jay Melrose and 16-year-old Rhys Ferguson both made the trip to the National Novice Titles at Woy Woy.
Jay was eliminated on the first night by the boxer who went on to win the division. “And Jay was the only guy who went the distance with this bloke,” Sparra said.
Young Rhys also shone. On the Friday night he secured a unanimous points decision over Tasmania’s Zac Palmer, and 24 hours later lost a split call to another Tassie product to finish with the silver medal.
Sparra’s boxers have a busy schedule, with tournaments scheduled at Casino and Murwillumbah next month and Souths Leagues, Newcastle in September.
Then there’s Nambucca Heads on October 21 in what shapes as Mitchel Stapleton’s last dance as an amateur.