Joel Brunker

The  Summer of sport hasn't treated Australia well so far.   The furthest any male player reached in Wimbledon was the fourth round.  The Ashes have just been lost in a decisive manner to the sworn enemy in England.  But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, resting on the shoulders of a very accomplished handler - Joel Brunker.  The 29 year old Australian holds a professional record of 28 wins and a solitary loss.  That loss came on UK shores in October 2014 against now world champion Lee Selby.  Brunker comes back to the UK in September, taking on undefeated featherweight Josh Warrington in Leeds.  
Since the loss to Selby, Brunker has picked up a win over Rey Laspinas back in Australia.  Brunker will be part of the 'season opener' for Sky Sports up in Leeds, headlining with his fight against Warrington.  It is huge exposure for Brunker, who has 16 stoppage victories from his 28 wins.  The fans in the North of England are known for being rowdy - is Brunker ready for that come September 5th?
"Definitely!!  Obviously the fans will all be cheering for Warrington, but that doesn't bother me at all" Brunker says.  "I have been in full camp for five weeks now and I am feeling great, I'm looking forward to the fight.  I will touch down in London on August 22nd to finish my preparation and adjust my body to the time difference."
Body preparation is something that Brunker has fine tuned.  Two of his last three fights have come away from his home country, one in America and the other at the O2 in London.  But he has a large CV of fights in Australia where he his solid record has been built.  There is another Antipodean fighter that has been around the same weight division as Brunker for a number of years and held the WBC super featherweight title until recently - Billy Dib.  Is it a fight that Brunker is interested in?
"I have challenged Billy Dib on numerous occasions as that is a domestic fight Australia have been wanting to see for a long time, but he has always declined. I have moved on from that and if he wants the fight his team can approach mine in the future."
Although that may be a shame for the fans in Australia, it can only benefit those fans elsewhere in the world.  With the door seemingly closed for now on a domestic clash, Brunker is taking his world title ambitions elsewhere.  Those ambitions include looking at getting his hands on Selby again.  At the time of his first fight with Selby the Welshman was seen as exciting but untested.  Taking on Brunker was his first test at world level.  So how did Brunker find the fight?
"He is a talented fighter, I knew that even before the fight as I had sparred him before. What makes him such a great fighter is his awkward style, he is very hard to land on. "  That assertion has been proven right, as Selby went on to win his next fight against Evgeny Gradovich, claiming the IBF featherweight title.  Would Brunker fancy getting his hands on Selby in the future if he gets through Warrington?  
"Absolutely! I am hoping for an opportunity to get back in with Selby again. When I fought Selby, I had been inactive for 14 months and I was struggling to get fights lined up and I was contemplating retirement. I don't use inactivity as an excuse because Selby was better on the night, but the UK fans didn't get to see me at my best."  It is a regret that Brunker wished to put right.  "In the future, I would love another opportunity to mix it up with Selby when I have been fighting actively, that way whatever the result is after that fight I can sleep well knowing I gave it my very best."
Of course, there is the issue of Josh Warrington to handle first.  Warrington holds a record of 21 victories, no losses.  He holds the British, Commonwealth,  European and WBC International titles.  But his level of opposition has been questionable.  He has wins over an ageing Rendall Munroe (28-4-1) who retired after the fight, as well as Martin Lindsay (21-2-0).  But his credentials haven't been tested against the best in the world - a number of fans in the UK have labelled him a potential hype job.  Is that something Brunker is aware of?  
Joel Brunker

"I have heard people say that on social media before, but I won't be making the mistake of taking him lightly. Come September 5th we will find out just what kind of fighter he is" states the Australian.  "I know he is an undefeated come forward fighter with quick hands and a good motor. As far as anything else we will find out on the night. The media has deemed me the gate keeper for him and his potential to fight Selby in the future."

It is clear that Brunker is here as a serious test for Warrington with ambitions of his own at world level.  Far from wishing to be a gate keeper himself, he sees this fight as his own potential step to the elite level.  "It will put me back in the mix for a world title shot and a possible rematch with Lee Selby. I am open to any challenges in the future, but my team will work that out after the fight is done as I am 100% focused on the fight with Warrington."

The prospect of being on the road again is not something that fazes Brunker.  In fact the opposite, his experience of fighting at the O2 against Selby earned him not just the respect of the UK fight fans, but also some new fans.  Does it excite him to get back on UK shores?  
"UK fans are great, I enjoyed coming over there last time and I am looking forward to coming over again. After the Selby fight even though I didn't get the win I had a lot of UK fans start supporting me on social media, which I really appreciate."  
So where do the UK fans rank amongst Brunker's experiences?  "Nothing beats fighting in Australia in front of a home crowd, but without sounding like a suck up I would have to say the UK are the best for the crazy boxing fans they have. "
Those fans will be out in full force supporting Warrington.  The last time he fought, against Dennis Tubieron, saw a loud and raucous crowd - as well as a beachball being thrown in to the ring, a new first for a British boxing ring.  There have been criticisms, that they are football fans that have carried on their days drinking in to the evening and at a boxing event.  However they do provide a lively atmosphere.  As the away fighter on the 5th September, no doubt Joel Brunker will feel the full effect of the fans packed in to the First Direct Arena.  This will be his opportunity to deflate the beach balls and silence the Yorkshire crowd - and brighten up the Summer of sport for Australia.