Danny 'The Green Machine' Green gets a surprise chance at boxing redemption when he takes on defending champion Krzysztof 'Diablo' Wlodarczyk of Poland for the WBC cruiserweight title at the Challenge Stadium in Mount Clermont , Western Australia on Wednesday.
Green is ranked a lowly 15th in the current WBC rankings and was well beaten in his last fight when he was forced to retire after nine rounds against former world light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver. Hard punching Wlodarczyk will be making the third defence of the title he won from Italian veteran Giacobbe Fragomeni last May. He had also briefly held the IBF version of the title.
Prior to his bout with Tarver, Green had been rated by many experts as the best 200 pounder in the world. Green had reinvented himself as a cruiserweight when he returned to the ring in 2009 following a two-year hiatus. A sensational first-round blowout of the great Roy Jones Jr in December of that year had made the boxing world sit up and take notice, and showed that Green was indeed back and better than ever. Subsequent victories over former world champ Manny Siaca, Aussie rival Paul Briggs and unbeaten American contender BJ Flores followed, and when Green signed to fight 43-year-old Antonio Tarver, many believed that it was another guaranteed big-name victory for the hard hitting Aussie.
Tarver however had other ideas, and took control from the opening bell, tying Green up effectively and neutralizing his early assaults. Late in the first round, a hard left from Tarver drove Green backward into the ropes – a sign of what was to come.
It soon became clear that Tarver knew how to nullify Green's attacks, and that the Aussie had no Plan-B, nor an answer to Tarver's southpaw style. A hard left floored Green in the second round, and from then on he was forced to box on the defense. The American veteran handed out a systematic beating to an always game Green, resulting in his corner pulling him out of the bout after a ninth round that saw him take a sustained hammering that had left him out on his feet. It was the first time the Australian had failed to finish a fight in his career.
Now comes a chance at redemption for 38-year-old former WBA light heavyweight champion Green (31-4, 27 KOs), but it comes against a man many regard as the best in the division.
30-year-old Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (45-2-1, 32 KOs) is an 11 year veteran with just two defeats on his record - a fifth round technical decision loss against Russian Pavel Melkomyan way back in 2003, and a majority points defeat to American Steve Cunningham in an IBF cruiserweight title fight back in 2007. The Cunningham loss came in a rematch - Wlodarczyk had become the first man to beat Cunningham, doing so on a split decision six months earlier.
On his way to the title, the 6'1" Pole had beaten quality cruiserweights like Ruediger May and Imamu Mayfield and also became the only man to stop top cruiserweight/heavyweight journeyman Ismail Abdoul of Belgium, an achievement unmatched by anyone, including the likes of Goran Delic, Mike Perez and Britain's undefeated 6'8" heavyweight puncher Richard Towers recently.
Wlodarczyk drew with cagey veteran Giacobbe Fragomeni in a June 2009 WBA cruiserweight title fight, and began his second reign by stopping the Italian in eight rounds a year later. The Pole has hardly set the world on fire in his two subsequent title defenses, outpointing Jason Robinson of the US in July 2010, and only winning a highly controversial split decision over Puerto Rican Francisco Palacios in April of this year.
If Danny Green has repaired his damaged ego and is 100% fit, focused and committed to defeating Wlodarczyk, he has a great chance of causing an upset, particularly in the early stages of the fight. Wlodarczyk is tough, a solid boxer and can punch, but unlike the slick moving Tarver, he comes straight at his opponent. He does lean back from punches and has good head movement, but will still be within Green's punching range.
By that same token, Green will also be in Wlodarczyk's hitting zone. This has all the elements of a pier-six brawl, and is likely to be the most exciting Australian fight of the year. If Green is to win, he must get Wlodarczyk out of their inside the first six rounds. The Pole is a relentless finisher, and will dominate the second half of the fight, should it last that long.
This one really could go either way, and is a classic ''pick'em'' fight. I'm picking Wlodarczyk to retain his title, either by a unanimous decision, or via a late round TKO in a thriller.
Dan Hunter is a lifelong boxing aficionado and our Boxing Editor.