It was a Hollywood-style ending for Altona-born world champion boxer “Dirty Diana” Prazak when she successfully defended her World Boxing Council super featherweight title in Flemington on Saturday.
Prazak has relocated from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to be trained by Lucia Rijker, a star of Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.
After spending days at Australia’s only woman-owned gym – Mischa Merz’s Boxing Central in Yarraville – Rijker was in Prazak’s corner at Melbourne Pavilion on Saturday night, spurring her on in a bout against Queensland mother-of-two Shannon “Shotgun” O’Connell.
Prazak said she dropped O’Connell twice in the second round and “the referee stopped the fight in the fifth round because she [O’Connell] was taking too much punishment”. Prazak was declared winner by technical knockout.
Merz says Prazak is on track to become one of the most successful boxers produced by Australia – not a bad rap for a woman who first entered a boxing gym six years ago at age 27.
Everyone laughed at her for being, in her own words, “too fat, too old and a girl”.
Prazak and Merz agreed it was incredible to be sparring with trainer Rijker, who they regard as the world’s outstanding woman boxer.
“Normally, they train at Hollywood’s notorious Wildcard gym surrounded by male champions like Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosely and an array of celebrities,” said Merz, who described Saturday’s encounter as electrifying.
“There was a lot of genuine support for Diana and a big proportion of the crowd was female, which just goes to show that there really is an audience for women’s boxing.
“It was one of those classic fights in which either one of them could have landed that finishing punch at any stage.
“It was dangerous, exciting and a real crowd-pleaser.”