The curtain has finally fallen on the career of esteemed Wagga boxer, Anthony McCracken.
At 35, the man nicknamed ‘The Bull’ has reluctantly let go of long-held hopes to relaunch his career.
“The plan was to at least have a comeback fight this year if I was going to get back into it,” McCracken said.
“But with the kids, and trying to manage schedules (with trainer Terry Neason), there come a time when I was struggling to get to training and only able to manage one or two days a week.
“To compete at the level I want to compete at, you want to be doing more than that. There’s no point coming back and being a punching bag for the young fellas. I’d need to be training five or six days a week.”
McCracken last fought in March 2015 against Vaitele Soi in New Zealand, making a successful defence of his WBA Pan African and WBO Asia Pacific Cruiserweight titles. Those belts were won in 2014 when he beat the highly-regarded David Aloua in Auckland to be on the verge of hitting the big time.
But an eye injury requiring surgery in the middle of 2015 halted hopes of going global and, ultimately, signalled the beginning of the end.
“I was just disappointed my injury happened when it did. I had a world title opportunity (against WBA cruiserweight champion Denis Lebedev, in Russia) but I couldn’t take it,” McCracken said.
After three years of holding out hope that he could pick up where he’d left off, McCracken has eventually faced up to the fact that it was time to close the door on a huge part of his life.
“That’s probably been the thing to come to grips with, ‘What do I do now? I’ve boxed for the last 10 or 15 years,’” he said.
“I’ve got two kids and one on the way so that was a factor… I think I just needed to accept what I’ve achieved.”
McCracken retires with a career record of 18 wins (eight by knockout), seven losses and a draw.
Five of his 26 fights were in Wagga. He’s thankful for the support of his home town and proud of the career he built on the back of it.
“One of the biggest things for me was that I got that exposure and people wanted to know when my next fight was,” McCracken said.
“There was a time when I’d walk in somewhere and people would say, there’s Anthony McCracken, the boxer. And when I travelled places to fight, people got to know you.”
A state title win in Wagga in 2007 to help launch his career was memorable, along with six months as a regular sparring partner for Danny Green.
But the wins against Aloua and Soi are career highlights
Soi had won 23 of his 24 fights before their meeting but didn’t win a round against McCracken.
Similarly, the victory against Aloua was his opponent’s second career loss.
Aloua had beaten McCracken two years earlier but the Wagga boy went back, worked on his craft and turned the tables after coming up with a relentless approach.
“I sort of cruised through that fight. Everything I learned out of our first fight, once I knew I was fighting him the second time for the regional titles, we fixed our training and game plan and came back with a plan where I didn’t give him a rest,” McCracken said.
“I had to be super fit. It was probably the fittest I’d ever been. It was the first time I genuinely had bad blood too. I didn’t hate the guy, he’s a good guy. But bad blood from a previous fight. It was the first time I really wanted to put some hurt on someone. Maybe I needed that a few years before, haha.”
Losses always taught him plenty. Being beaten by Shane Cameron was also among his most important bouts because what he learnt on that occasion came back to help him against Aloua.
While his battles with Dominic Vea live long in the memory of many who saw them.
“He ripped into me in the first fight and he stopped me with a body shot. That was my only stoppage loss,” McCracken said.
“When we came back for the second fight they thought, ‘We beat him the first time, we’d go again.’
“Well that was silly. The damage he got from me in the second fight, he never really recovered. He didn’t fight for four months. He’d come in with a broken nose and hadn’t properly recovered but fought anyway. He got a couple of punches and it busted him again.
“He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever seen. Some of the injuries he had and kept fighting, I thought that was crazy.”
McCracken still loves the fight game and says the relatively small boxing community in Australia is like a family.
And he’d have no hesitation encouraging sons Brock, 5, and Kobe, 2, to enjoy the sport.
“Yeah, well my kids can already box. They've got a couple of pairs of boxing gloves and they use the mat in our lounge room as the ring!”
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