Mundine wants career in politics after boxing

It's not until you meet the mother of outspoken boxing champion Anthony Mundine that you get a better understanding of his often parochial and forthright views on indigenous affairs. Why he has fought rights issues - such as refusing to stand for our national anthem - as fiercely as his opponents in the bloody and brutal environment of the boxing ring.

Lyn Mundine is from the stolen generation. Her mum and Anthony's other grandmother, Ilene McGuiness, were taken from their parents at birth. Lyn's mum later died in her 60s not knowing her true identity.

Mundine didn't know this story until his teenage years when it would become the catalyst for much of his aggression and anger as a flag carrier for his people.

I've said some dumb stuff and I've apologised... I'm always going to be me but I'm a bit smarter now.

It might not explain the homophobic remarks, his infamous 9/11 comments (later retracted) and a lot of the trash talk that has been part and parcel of his career in boxing and NRL. Yet it's almost a revelation of reason.

Anthony Mundine is certainly more loathed than loved by the Australian sporting public. But there is another side to The Man.

Mundine's mum drives him to this interview in Surry Hills. He has lost his driver's licence for speeding and is now undergoing a driver offender's course. It's not something he's proud of. Hardly role model material for a man who wants to be one.

"I've actually learnt a lot from it," he says. "They've shown us some horrific stuff from crashes caused by people's stupidity on the road.

"If everyone did this course, I guarantee our roads would be safer."

We chat about the next stage of his life and the journey ahead after such a colourful and controversial career as a footy player and world champion boxer.

I start by asking Mundine about the most important role model in his life.

"My mum," he says, "without a doubt. I get my strength from her and she is my best friend. She went through a lot and she is my inspiration."

This is the most emotional I have seen Mundine.


Anthony Mundine with his mum Lyn. Picture: David Swift.
Anthony Mundine with his mum Lyn. Picture: David Swift.


There are tears as he begins to explain the love for his mother, their bond and her influence.

One of 12 kids, Lyn was born and raised in Wellington, NSW, in a two-bedroom house with dirt floors and an fireplace outside to cook meals.

Lyn joins in to explain as her son struggles. "My mother would have given anything to know her own family.

"I heard her crying one night when I was growing up.

"I asked what was wrong and she said, 'I don't know who I am' and then explained the story.

"It still upsets us that a generation was ripped from us, and knowing Mum died with no identity," she says.

We've lost our skills to socialise and bond with each other.

"It was when I told Anthony about his grandmother he became interested in the indigenous history.

"And I'm really proud of that. It's definitely one of the reasons he has been so outspoken."

Mundine rejoins the conversation.

"It affected not just Mum but hundreds of thousands," he says.

"The pain they went through.

Mundine fighting Danny Green. Picture Sarah Reed
Mundine fighting Danny Green. Picture Sarah Reed

"Families just ripped apart. Their broken hearts. And it happened in my family.

"It was important for me, with the profile I've had, to be able to talk about these issues."

Mundine's early life was a happy one by comparison. His dad was the world-rated boxer Tony Mundine - a tough-as- nails knockout specialist who had fought all-time greats such as Carlos Monzon and Emile Griffith.

Tony saw and nurtured the same athletic gifts in Anthony, who excelled at rugby league and basketball as a junior.

He flirted with boxing before joining the NRL where, for a time, he was the highest paid player in the country and represented NSW in the State of Origin.

But after several years in league the call of boxing proved too strong and he turned pro in 2000. Since then he has racked up 56 fights, won two world champion belts and been dubbed the greatest crossover athlete ever to lace on the gloves.

Mundine is now in negotiations to fight Queenslander Jeff Horn in Brisbane in November in what would arguably be the biggest bout in Australia's boxing history.

He's 43 but refuses to even contemplate retirement.

Mundine enters the ring to fight Tommy Browne in January. He won by knockout. Pic: AAP Image/Daniel Munoz.
Mundine enters the ring to fight Tommy Browne in January. He won by knockout. Pic: AAP Image/Daniel Munoz.

"If I was slurring my words or stuttering, I'd be worried," he says. "I got knocked out way more playing rugby league. I'm still as sharp as a tack.

"I'm cut from a different cloth, a different beast, a different animal."

Eventually his time will come. And he wants a position in life, be it politics, parliament or schools and sporting fields, where he can have an influence on the next generation of young Australians.

"Politics is something I've often thought about," he says.

"Anything where I'd be in a position to make a difference.

"Someone people can relate to and get to know the real me and what I stand for.

"God chose me to be that guy to lead the way," he adds, "To have that unbreakable resilience.

Mundine playing for St George in 1998.
Mundine playing for St George in 1998.

"I don't drink or do drugs. I don't gamble. I can change people's lives."

The conversation turns to Anthony's meeting with a 12-year-old girl whose father was suffering depression.

"This fella was going to commit suicide," Mundine says. "His distraught daughter got in contact with me and asked me to meet her dad - That's what he'd asked for. He'd been a mess.

"Anyway, he came and saw me after one of my fights and I start bawling my eyes out for the guy.

"I'm strong and resilient but everyone has their moments. He just needed reassurance. We became friends and he's doing really well now.

"To think my confidence and my achievements helped stop him killing himself … say what you want but I know I can inspire people - all people, all colours, all generations."

Yet the homophobic remarks from when he appeared on Channel 10's I'm A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! created a huge public backlash and caused his popularity to drop to an all-time low. It was an anti-gay rant that he now regrets.

Mundine and Danny Green in the I'm a Celebrity Jungle.
Mundine and Danny Green in the I'm a Celebrity Jungle.

"I honestly don't care if anyone's gay," he says. "I'm not judge and jury. That's for the creator. Whether I believe it's right or wrong, I have to accept it. It's law.

"I've got gay friends. I've got gay family members. I have a cousin, she's gay. I was hurt that she was hurt. I want to uplift and inspire people, not hurt anyone.

"I was trying to say what happened in our culture back in the day. It comes out that I want gays to be killed. Of course I don't wish that on anyone. In Islam taking one human life is like taking the whole of humanity."

Yet the damage from those remarks lingers on. As do other outrageous comments over the years.

Criticising Cathy Freeman for not being a true leader, 9/11 and the comment "Americans got what they deserved" and the constant criticism of racism in rugby league.

He has had a career of controversy as much as sporting achievements.

Mundine is tackled during the State of Origin 1 in 1999.
Mundine is tackled during the State of Origin 1 in 1999.

"I've said some dumb stuff and I've apologised," he says.

"As you grow older and wiser, you want to make amends for what you've done or said in the past.

"I'm always going to be me but I'm a bit smarter now.

"It's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to fighting Jeff Horn. So people can get to know me better.

"As for Cathy Freeman, she is a leader who empowers our people and she knows of my love for her. She has inspired all people."

There are many areas of society where Mundine would like to make a difference when he eventually quits boxing.

He is determined to put his profile to better use than he has in the past. There will be no boxing tickets to sell, no headlines to push pay TV subscriptions.

"I'm open to any idea about anything where I can make a difference," he says. "Drugs, alcohol and gambling are all poisons of society. People lose their houses and their families over this stuff.

"What's worse, seriously, some of the stuff I say or the gambling advertising that contributes to destroying lives?

"I want to educate people. Everyone's addicted to phones, PS4, Xbox.

"We need phone-free zones. We've lost our skills to socialise and bond with each other.

"Life's about likes and how popular young people are on social media. And that's wrong."

I have known Mundine for almost 30 years. We first met for a story when he was a hugely promising, but very shy, 15-year-old rugby league player and basketballer.

Mundine cops it from Daniel Geale in their grudge match.
Mundine cops it from Daniel Geale in their grudge match.

It's been an on and off relationship. More off than on because of the offensive remarks.

Yet there have been few sportsmen I have admired more - especially now that maturity is settling in.

"Why should I be afraid to speak my beliefs?" he asks. "If I'd just towed the line and shut my mouth, I'd be disappointed in myself. What I've achieved will live to eternity.

"I'm stating facts. Nothing cocky, nothing arrogant.

"You know, if I went into politics, people would vote for me if they knew the real me.

"That's what I'm trying to do now. I'm a cool cat regular dude.

"No one has achieved what I have.

"No one has walked my walk or done what I've done.

"And I love our country as much as anyone."