By Jake Donovan
Lucas Browne has spent the past nine months calling out several heavyweights, begging for fights and even trying to wrap his head around the fact that he is blocked by his own promoter on Twitter.
All of that took a back seat to a potentially disastrous turn Friday evening. The unbeaten heavyweight overcame an early deficit and a hand injury to score a bailout 9th round knockout of clubfighter Julius Long at Melbourne Pavilion in Flemington, Australia.
The fight was intended as means for Browne get reacclimated with the ring while awaiting any number of opportunities to pan out—namely sought-after challenges versus heavyweight titlists Deontay Wilder and Ruslan Chagaev. In Long, he had a sub .500 clubfighter from the United States—who now calls Auckland, New Zealand home these days—with one win in the past eight years and who took the fight on short notice.
Someone forgot to tell Long that his job was simply to provide Browne with the opportunity to shake some rust before eventually fading into the sunset. The 7'1" Detroit product opened strong, taking advantage of Browne's plodding style and penchant for loading up for one big shot in hopes of a grand payoff.
Adding insult to injury - or in this case, injury to insult - was the fact that Browne clearly damaged his right hand at some point in the early rounds. Whatever the case, the Aussie heavyweight managed to dig himself a deep hole and was well on his way to landing on the wrong end of what would have been by far the biggest upset of 2015.
Long's lack of proper training means - which tends to happen when you're summoned on less than a week's notice - and going all in during the first half the fight gave way to fatigue, at which point Browne began to maul his way back into the fight. A strong round six helped turn the tide, with Browne never looking back.
A series of punches - coupled with exhaustion - led the the bout's first knockdown late in round eight, as Long collapsed along the ropes and to the canvas. He made it out of the round and reached a point where he was just hoping to cross the finish line. Browne disallowed that dream, as a sweeping left hook put Long down and out shortly before the close of the 9th round.
The official time was 2:59 of round nine.
Browne's record advances to 23-0 (20KOs), but in what was arguably the worst performance of his career. Long falls to 16-19 (14KOs), having lost 10 of his last 11 starts dating back to 2007.
For a fighter on the cusp of a shot at a major title, the 36-year old heavyweight looks more like bait for any of the top heavyweights.
Perhaps a greater rate of activity and a proper training camp would help reverse that course, although that would require an open dialogue with promoter, former two-division champ Ricky Hatton. While it's uncertain what goes on behind closed doors, Browne is unable to speak to his promoter through social media.
Whatever the case, performances like what was exhibited on Friday evening—aside from the spectacular finish—certainly won't make anyone stand up and take notice anytime soon.
The fight aired live on free to air Channel 9 in Australia.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox