By Liam Napier
New Zealand middleweight boxer Gunnar Jackson has landed the chance of a lifetime with a last minute call-up to fight Anthony Mundine in Brisbane this month.
In a typically convoluted boxing scenario, American Billy Lyell did not respond to an offer to replace Mundine's original opponent, Carson Jones, who pulled out of the January 29 showdown with the flu.
While details of the contract were being finalized overnight, Mundine's agent, Khoder Nasser, confirmed to Fairfax Media last night that Wellington-born, Tauranga-raised Jackson had accepted the biggest challenge - and payday - of his career.
"There is a verbal understanding that Gunnar will be the opponent," Nasser said.
"He's brave enough to step into the ring with the best fighter in this part of the world in that division. He must be a courageous guy.
"He's got nothing to lose and everything to win. The opportunity is like winning the lottery."
Jackson has just seven days to prepare but he was never going to turn down this chance. A drain layer by trade; a father of two girls and named after an '80s race horse, Jackson has been devoted to his chosen craft long before he turned pro in 2010.
Mundine represents everything he's been waiting for.
It's these sorts of opportunities he, like many other Kiwi boxers battling for recognition in sport lacking regular profile, always hope will eventuate but can never be certain will arrive.
"Up against a class fighter like Mundine I see it as a good opportunity to go over there and prove myself," the 27-year-old said.
"To me it's not about the money. It's about going there, showing my class and mixing it with the best.
"I never thought I'd get this opportunity in my lifetime. I've always wanted to fight Mundine. This is huge.
"It will be good to prove a point to everyone back home and on the world scene as well.
"My preparation hasn't been great but I've got enough time to get ready and be sharp on the night."
All the cards are stacked in Mundine's favor. The former Australian rugby league star comes off a TKO win over American veteran Shane Mosley, a former champion in three weight divisions who is now retired. Experience is also heavily weighted in Mundine's corner, having forged a 45-5 record compared to Jackson's 18-4.
"Anthony wants to stay active," Nasser said. "He's come off Shane Mosley and you don't stop there. He's got goals. He's got to put more pressure on and keep fighting."
But Jackson realizes a shock upset on an event, which will also feature Wallabies star Quade Cooper on the undercard and is expected to be televised throughout Australia and New Zealand, would send ripples around the boxing world.
Mundine will back his fast hands and elusive head movement but if Jackson can pull off a result befitting his ring name - "The Stunner" - he might be able to finally give up his day job.
"It's something I've been looking forward to for a while. I'm going in there to mix it up and give it my best shot."