IT HASN'T quite been a perfect knockout year for Nambucca's Mitchell Whitelaw - but if you asked him 12 months ago if he'd be happy to finish 2019 as the No.3 ranked light heavyweight professional boxer in Australia, he would have grabbed it with his two large hands.
The 24-year-old's record now stands at five wins, as many losses and two draws - but the quality of the opposition he has faced in the ring has seen him steadily climb the rankings.
And the 'White Lion' has become something of a rock star in the process - with his bouts being shown on large tv networks, and being near mobbed by punters after his most recent fight in Brisbane for 'selfies' and autographs.
The final two battles of the year were telling.
At Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne, he traded thunderstrikes with Tej Pratap Singh, the current Australian middle weight champion who has had 23 fights as a pro and is ranked 63 on the planet.
The entertaining bout was adjudged a draw and was broadcast by the giant Main Event ESPN channel.
"Mitchell fought brilliantly on the night and we thought we might have just got that decision," trainer Ian 'Sparra' Stapleton told the Guardian.
"The preparation for that was terrible too. Our plane was delayed at Coffs Harbour because of the bushfire smoke, then it blew a tyre in Sydney. We didn't get in to the motel in Melbourne until 11.30pm with all of the delays."
Mitchell's final outing for the year came shortly after when he fought on the Anthony Mundine-John Wayne Parr undercard at the Brisbane Convention Centre at Southbank.
There he faced the formidable Leti Leti, whose record stood at 14-1, including 12 victories by knockout.
Broadcast by Epic Centre TV, the decision controversially went to Leti Leti, who repeatedly lost his mouth guard during the stoush.
"He (Leti Leti) rattled Mitchell in the fifth but Mitchell won every other round," Sparra said.
"When Mitchell gave his interview after the fight the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Everyone in that stadium knew who had really won the fight.
"Before the Melbourne fight Mitchell was ranked something like 330th in the world and eighth or ninth in Australia and now he's up to 155th in the world and No.3 in Australia because of how he has gone against higher calibre fighters."
Mitchell marked his 2019 campaign hard.
"I was a little bit disappointed with some of the decisions which I thought might have gone my way, but it doesn't deter me or make me want to stop," the 24-year-old told the Guardian.
"I'm just a young man from the country and there's some who don't like that. They know I'm a threat.
"I've been happy with how I've performed against world ranked fighters and I haven't changed my motto of any time, anyone, anywhere."
Planning is already underway for Mitchell's 2020 campaign, with the chance of an engagement in China early in the New Year.
"Everyone knows he's a fighter on the up," Sparra said.