HERVEY Bay's Jarrod Fletcher will have something to declare at customs when he arrives home from France at Brisbane Airport on Monday - he's a new world champion.
The Australian middleweight champion won the World Boxing Association interim middleweight title after a unanimous points decision triumph over the European champion, Ukrainian Max "The Tiger" Bursak, in Monte Carlo yesterday.
The judges scored the 12-round bout 115-111, 115-111, 114-112 in favour of "Left Jab" as Fletcher, 30, is known in the fight game, as he became only the second man to beat Bursak in his 32-fight professional career.
But Bursak did himself no favours on the scorecards, with South African referee Stan Christodoulou twice ordering a point be deducted from his score for his dirty attempts to provoke Fletcher.
He lost his first point after hitting Fletcher, the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold medallist, behind the back in the head in the second round.
Holding down Fletcher's head in the 11th round cost him another.
But despite those tactics, and two cuts above both his eyes, one of which was through an accidental clash of heads in the eighth round, Fletcher kept his calm and composure to secure his first world title.
"Mate, it was an extremely tough night in the office, but I am really stoked to put it mildly," he told this reporter not long after winning, what he described as "the biggest fight of his career".
"I cannot put into words what it means. It's been a long tough road to get here and I am, well, over the moon that I've finally cracked it.
"But you know me mate, I won't be resting on my laurels now.
"This win is only the start. It's onwards and upwards from here on in."
The win takes Fletcher's record to 18 wins out of his professional fights, 10 by KO, since he turned professional after the Beijing Olympics.
But this victory came at a price - any potential modelling career is now in doubt due to those cuts above his eyes.
"Mate, it's finished," he said with a laugh.
"Seriously though, I had a few stitches in each eye, but it's all good mate. You get that on the big jobs."
While Fletcher was celebrating in France, his father Dave was doing his best to keep his emotions in check in Hervey Bay.
He lived through every round, through every punch thrown and received because that's something he's done since the very first time he laced up a pair of boxing gloves on his son, who was 10 at the time, at the Hervey Bay Boxing Club.
"Mate, you would know how I feel after all these years you've been writing about him. I am so very, very proud," Dave said.
"It's an unbelievable achievement because he's only really just starting out in his pro career, so to take on tough fighters like Bursak, do it a long way from home, and beat them, is unreal.
"I know just how hard he's worked and the sacrifices he's made to get where he is today - on top of the world."
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