Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - MICHAEL THOMPSON michael. thompson@ news. com. au

YOUNG Townsville box­ers Jalen Tai and Cooper Mad­dern have ev­ery rea­son to dream big now that one of their idols has blazed a path­way.

Tai, 16, and Mad­dern, 14, will be watch­ing fel­low Up­per Ross Hawks fighter Mark Flana­gan take on Rus­sia’s De­nis Lebe­dev early on Mon­day morn­ing Aus­tralian time for the WBA world cruis­er­weight ti­tle.

The young pair count Flana­gan as a friend and men­tor, and like Flana­gan suf­fered early set­backs in their emerg­ing box­ing ca­reers.

Tai and Mad­dern lost two early fights, just as Flana­gan did, but they rolled with the punches, learned from their mis­takes and are now among Queens­land’s most promis­ing young box­ers.

Tai has won his past 22 fights and se­cured two Aus­tralian Box­ing Coun­cil ban­tamweight belts, and Mad­dern has gone un­beaten from his past five bouts.

“I lost my first fight and then my third, but Mark helped me after that be­cause he said he lost his first two,” Tai said.

“He won 20 straight fights after that, so it made me think that if he could do it so could I.

“The goal is go­ing pro in the next cou­ple of years.”

Mad­dern also hopes to turn pro­fes­sional in com­ing years and like Tai has re­ceived some pearls of wis­dom from Flana­gan.

The pair even trained to­gether at Ross River Dam when Flana­gan vis­ited Townsville last month.

“It shows you can do any­thing you put your mind to,” Mad­dern said. “He works hard and to get where he is ( and) you have to do the same thing.

Tai added: “He’s like a big brother.”

Flana­gan has been treated to the celebrity ex­pe­ri­ence in box­ing- mad Rus­sia, with lo­cals in Yeka­ter­in­burg pos­ing for pho­tos with Flana­gan and get­ting their box­ing gear signed.

Flana­gan’s Up­per Ross Hawks’ men­tor Den­nis Clancy said Tai and Mad­dern had a per­fect role model to fol­low in Flana­gan.

“Things didn’t go Mark’s way early on and he got knocked around a bit in those first cou­ple of fights of his,” he said.

“After that it was re­ally up to him if we wanted to keep go­ing.

“He was there for the next train­ing ses­sion and he told me ‘ I re­ally want to keep do­ing this’ and that was that.

“I’ve said it be­fore didn’t have it easy.

“But he’s helped show there’s al­ways a path in life no mat­ter where you come from.” that Mark

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