King of the ring bids adieu


Kalgoorlie Miner - - SPORT - Neale Har­vey

In his 1960s hey­day as a Gold­fields box­ing cham­pion, John De Meis was never a phys­i­cally im­pos­ing heavy­weight or the hard­est puncher.

He pre­ferred to out­smart op­po­nents and most times, he did.

But go­ing up against big­ger and stronger fight­ers brought with it high anx­i­ety lev­els, like when he boxed at the 1969 Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der Com­mu­nity Fair against a ri­val 30kg heavi- er. It was the only time De Meis ac­tu­ally wet him­self be­fore a fight.

But he said that was more to do with let­ting down his hun­dreds of sup­port­ers in the crowd, rather than any­thing his op­po­nent could do to him.

De Meis leaves the re­gion next week, sev­er­ing ties with a golden era of Gold­fields box­ing which in­cluded him win­ning the 1969 Golden Gloves cham­pi­onship.

In the past 47 years, De Meis said the pop­u­lar­ity of lo­cal box­ing had ebbed and flowed.

“Even af­ter all th­ese years, it (Kal­go­or­lie-Boul­der) is not big enough, as far as the sport hav­ing a big fol­low­ing,” he said.

“Th­ese days, you’ve got other (com­bat) sports like judo, kick­box­ing and karate to com­pete with.

“In my day, box­ing was the main (fight) sport and af­ter Lionel Rose won the world ti­tle (in 1968), we had 60 kids at the gym, all want­ing to be world cham­pi­ons. But af­ter three weeks, it was back to 15 or 16 — the hype had worn off and it’s the same now. “Noth­ing changes.” De Meis once drove to Perth for a big fight, only to have his op­po­nent with­draw on the night.

“I trained so hard for that fight at the Perth Town Hall,” he said.

“But an hour be­fore, I was do­ing my warm up out the back, my op­po­nent saw me and dis­ap­peared.”

Five years ago, De Meis’ strug­gles as a young Ital­ian im­mi­grant grow­ing up in the Gold­fields were doc­u­mented in his book, The Will To Win.

Th­ese days, Mel­bourne-born and Tas­ma­nia-raised Nathan Sting is con­tent to en­joy a rel­a­tively quiet Gold­fields life­style — seven years re­moved from a fine ca­reer as a cham­pion boxer.

Sting, 39, fought 36 times for 28 wins and a draw over 14 years as a pro­fes­sional. Along the way, he claimed a string of na­tional belts and grabbed ver­sions of a pair of world ti­tles.

Be­fore fi­nally hang­ing up his gloves in 2005, fol­low­ing a loss in Jakarta, Sting — who works lo­cally un­der­ground — had rid­den on the wave of an eight­fight win­ning streak.

They in­cluded back-to-back suc­cesses in the UK against Johnny Armour and Nicky Booth — just eight weeks apart — and WBU and WBE ban­tamweight straps.

Sting, who fol­lowed a younger sis­ter, al­ready liv­ing here, to the Gold­fields three years ago, has pretty much stayed away from box­ing since his ar­rival.

He clearly still en­joys re­count­ing the more mem­o­rable mo­ments of his long ca­reer when he climbed be­tween the ropes at venues as mod­est as the Man­durah Aquatic Cen­tre and Tas­ma­nia’s Bluegum Park Foot­ball Oval.

But he also graced Sh­effield’s Ponds Forge Arena and Lon­don’s York Hall and trained along­side some of the sport’s big­gest names, in­clud­ing Eng­land’s for­mer two-divi­sion world cham­pion David Haye.

He had spent years be­ing trained by Keith El­lis, but even­tu­ally be­came a sta­ble­mate of Haye while liv­ing in Lon­don in 2001.

One of his fond­est mem­o­ries oc­curred at the Welsh In­sti­tute of Sport in Cardiff in Fe­bru­ary, 1996, when he had top billing for a clash with Neil Swain.

On the un­der-card was a then up-and-com­ing Welsh­man, Joe Calza­ghe, who was mak­ing just his 15th pro­fes­sional ap­pear­ance.

Calza­ghe went on to forge a Hall of Fame-cal­i­bre ca­reer by re­tir­ing un­beaten from 46 fights in 2008.

“I was the main event and Joe Calza­ghe fought an Amer­i­can on my un­der-card — I’ve got the poster at home to prove it,” Sting quipped.

He was just 12 when he had his first am­a­teur bout.

“I was fight­ing ev­ery week­end in Mel­bourne,” he re­called of his en­try into the sport.

“I used to get a lot of nerves and adrenalin rush, but that’s what used to make me fast.

“They reckon once you lose that, that’s it — get out.

“I ended up not hav­ing it in the end (af­ter a fifthround knock­out de­feat), but it (box­ing) is like a drug and tough to get out of.

“I’d al­ways shied away from the me­dia and boxed for the love of it.”

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