Sports

Meet the ‘Hammer from Grammar’: Schoolboy boxer who scares the pros

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Youve come to the Bondi Boxing Club in Waterloo on Tuesday afternoon to have a look at the 15-year-old fighter the professionals apparently dont want to spar — because he hits too hard.

Sounds too good to be true. It also sounds like a story worth telling.

Kid gloves: Anton Markovic trains with Tony Del Vecchio in Waterloo.

Kid gloves: Anton Markovic trains with Tony Del Vecchio in Waterloo.Credit:Wolter Peeters

Heres Darragh Foley, the world-ranked super-lightweight whos doing some conditioning work.

“I used to be a male model before I sparred this kid,” the Irishman, whose nose is spread across his face, jokes.

Not everyone laughs about stepping into the ring with Anton Markovic, the Trinity Grammar student from Malabar who is quietly building towards something big.

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How big? Lets ask International Hall of Fame trainer Johnny Lewis, who has trained a few up-and-coming boxers in his time.

“I wish I was 24 and not 74 so I could sit back and see what this kid will give to boxing fans in the future,” Lewis says. “This kid will get boxing back to where it should be in this country. Hes very special.”

Markovics trainer, Tony Del Vecchio, thinks so, too.

“When hes sparring,” Del Vecchio explains, “there are pros in this gym that are very wary. Jesus, no, not Anton! He punches that hard. Hes only 15 but hes 75kg, has big shoulders, and hes rocked a few of the professionals.

“Ive had four guys spar with him from other gyms who havent returned. He puts them away. Ive got seasoned guys who will do it, but theyre reluctant. Hes put people on notice — at 15.”

The private school of hard knocks: Markovic, 15, attends Trinity Grammar.

The private school of hard knocks: Markovic, 15, attends Trinity Grammar.Credit:Wolter Peeters

Since starting with Del Vecchio 18 months ago, Markovic has collected four national titles, including the Australasian Golden Gloves schoolboys championship (70kg) in Brisbane last year in front of freshly minted world champion Jeff Horn.

Markovic was only 14 then — and only months into learning about an equally technical and brutal sport.

When he first arrived in the gym, Del Vecchio thought he was going to train one of the dozens of kids who have big dreams and not much more.

Then he heard the crack of glove on heavy bag. Bang! Bang! Bang! It only took two more sessions to realise there was something worth pursuing here.

“I thought, This is ridiculous,” he recalls. “Wheres this strength come from?”

It comes from the long hours Markovic had spent in the water, trying to become the best young butterflier in the country, dragging himself out of the water with each stroke.

He was a student of boxing, entranced by the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez, as well as studying legendary figures such as Julio César Chávez, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard.

He only pulled on the gloves for fitness. But the more powerful he became, and the sweeter the punches landed, the more he realised his days of mindless laps of the pool were over.

“Id rather take a punch in the face than do another lap of butterfly,” Markovic laughs.

What about sparring with grown men who are stronger, heavier, more experienced?

“Its different to being punched by a 16-year-old but you get used to it,” he shrugs. “You stop being afraid.”

He wasnt afraid in Bathurst in June when he fought for another Australian title, but this time in the 78kg division and against an older opponent.

In the first round, Markovic was given a standing eight-count. Video later revealed the ref had got it wrong. Markovic had slipped the punch.

“Dont mix it up with him,” Del Vecchio advised Markovic when he returned to his corner. “Hes heavier than you, taller than you …”

Recalls Del Vecchio: “After that terrible first round, he went out and beat a kid, who he was giving away four kilos to, in the next three rounds and ended up winning the fight convincingly. He listens to everything you say. Its like playing PlayStation. I cant get that from my pros who earn $30,000 a fight. His name is out there and now Im having a hard time matching him because people dont want to fight him.”

Markovics a dedicated student at Trinity Grammar, the prestigious inner-west school that has cut him plenty of slack to pursue his dreams in boxing; a sport that is hardly the most popular among teachers.

And how far do those dreams extend?

“Id like to represent Australia at a Commonwealth Games or an Olympics,” Markovic says. “Im just taking it step by step.”

Then this: “Im really looking forward to fighting some adults”.

Good luck to them.

Taking time out: Storm and Kangaroos five-eighth Cameron Munster.

Taking time out: Storm and Kangaroos five-eighth Cameron Munster.Credit:AAP

Meninga gives Munster compassionate leave

Earlier this year, Storm playmaker Cameron Munster opened up in an interview with the Herald about his issues with alcohol.

We can assure you that his last-minute withdrawal from the Kangaroos squad had nothing to do with that.

It was a personal issue involving someone he is close to and when he turned up to camp coach Mal Meninga thought it best for him to take some time off. Hell be back.

Theres been plenty of debate about the make-up of the side to play New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday. The Roosters grand final win sealed Latrell Mitchells place in the side — and the Storms loss cost Josh Addo-Carr.

It makes for a formidable left edge: Luke Keary, Boyd Cordner, Mitchell and the Sharks' Valentine Holmes.

They arent making much of it publicly, but the Kangaroos are being inspired by the seven Australian players who died in World War I who also played for their country.

The “VII” on the current players training gear represents those men, with stories about each of them read out before training sessions.

Protesters should get off their high horses

Someone likes The Everest.

About 1000 people turned up to the Opera House on Tuesday night to protest against a six-minute light projection onto the sails for the barrier draw. Amazingly, nobody died.

A heaving crowd in excess of 34,000 is expected to attend Royal Randwick on Saturday to watch the $13 million race with general admission ticket sales tracking far better than last years inaugural race.

Bag Alan Jones all you want. Gladys Berejiklian, too. And I agree: the Opera House is not a billboard. The barrier draw cheapened it. I feel the same way about that godforsaken thing they call “Vivid”.

But the demonisation of racing by people who know nothing about it has been laughable. Its a sport, not “a means to rip the hearts and souls out of families” as one breathless reader emailed this week.

For years, Racing NSW has been criticised for failing to match Melbournes spring carnival.

The Everest was created last year and, whether you like him or not, chief executive Peter VLandys is tasked with trying to sell it.

The quote

"It made a semi-low sport even lower." — I overheard a bloke say this at the Kings Cross Hotel during the week about the farcical scenes following the UFC fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. I would've bought him a beer if they weren't $8.

Thumbs up

Former Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates saved his Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper Romain Salin from choking after Salin collided with the post and was knocked unconscious while making a save. Coates placed his fingers inside Salin's mouth to ensure his throat wasn't blocked and he could breathe.

Thumbs down

Nick Kyrgios. Goin' good, as always.

Kingpin: Sydney Kings superstar Andrew Bogut.

Kingpin: Sydney Kings superstar Andrew Bogut.Credit:AAP

Its a big weekend for …

Andrew Bogut, the Sydney Kings super-signing who isnt just the new face of his team but, seemingly, the NBL. The Kings start their season against the Adelaide 36ers at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Its an even bigger weekend for …

The world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, who is expected to start for the Central Coast Mariners for the first time at the Theatre of Dreams that is Campbelltown Sportsground.

Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald

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