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‘I’m not like that’: Why ‘Instagram model’ taunt won’t stop Aussie star as world rankings surge looms

Australian star Ben Mahoney is finally ready to put a “pretty s*** time” behind him as he looks to not only defeat Koen Mazoudier, but catapult himself into the world rankings and bigger fights.

The Queenslander’s stocks were at their highest after generating international headlines by decimating Ben Hussain’s jaw in October 2020 as well as a narrow victory over Kris George six months later.

Ranked as the second-best Australian super welterweight behind a certain Tim Tszyu, Mahoney had the perfect platform to propel his career even further.

But the undefeated 27-year-old was forced to sit on his hands through no fault of his own, a nightmare scenario given he has fought across three different combat sports at a high level for 13 years.

“Long story short, I was stuck in contractual obligations,” Mahoney said.

“I was in the way of working out something. In that period of time, I couldn’t actually fight on certain promotions or I couldn’t actually fight certain people due to something that I was tied up in.

“I was limited in that period of eight months that I couldn’t really get a fight. There were a lot of guys talking and saying this and that. I’m just sitting back and thinking there’s no point of even explaining it.”

As soon as Mahoney had the green light, he moved up a weight division just to get back in the ring and comprehensively outpointed Lachie Higgins in April last year.

The win over Higgins in Geelong was followed up by disposing Thai fighter Narong Bunchan with a 57-second TKO, a victory Mahoney described as one “just to stay active and keep on moving.”

“It was a pretty s*** time that my coach and I went through when we couldn’t stay active, but that’s all cleared up now.”

Indeed, it is all systems go for Mahoney (13-0, 7KO) this year and it begins on Sunday against Mazoudier (11-2, 4KO) for the WBA Oceania super welterweight title on the undercard of Tim Tszyu vs Tony Harrison.

The bout is one Mazoudier has longed for, firing verbal jabs for several months at Mahoney on social media, including one where he branded the latter an “Instagram model.”

Although Mahoney noted there was “no benefit” of fighting Mazoudier last year when he was perhaps at his most vocal, the stakes are now different.

“He was yelling some stuff at me on socials months and months and months ago at the end of last year and mid-last year, saying names and pointing the finger and all that kind of stuff,” Mahoney said.

“For me, it’s a progression game and a stepping stone game. Coming from last year, I’m No. 2 under Tim and he’s No. 3. It lines up. Last year, we had no benefit of fighting him.

“At the end of the day, I never had a contract. I just had him yelling at me through social media. We never had a contract, I never had an offer. As soon as the contract came through this time, I didn’t hesitate at all.

“The fight itself isn’t something that I’d shy away from. I’d fight anyone under the sun for the right opportunity. It’s a big platform, there’s a nice belt on the line that’ll put me in the world rankings.

“As soon as that contract came through, I was happy as Larry.”

It wasn’t terribly long ago Mahoney himself was the emotional firebrand, but that was solely in the ring.

By his own admission, he’s “stood up on corner posts and rinsed the fighter’s corners because they’ve been talking smack.”

But as he’s gotten older and wiser, Mahoney recognises it’s what you do in the ring that’s important, not what comes out of your mouth: a mentality forged by competing in Muay Thai as young as 14.

“A lot of people act emotionally, like Koen,” Mahoney said.

“His persona is he likes to attack the other people as individuals and he tries to pump himself up and be enemies.

“Power to him, each to their own. But I’m not like that.

“I came from Thai boxing where it’s all about respect, it’s all about just going in and doing the business, there’s nothing in-between.

“Coming over to boxing, I kept that same mentality. For me, it’s not a tough man’s sport, it’s a thinking man’s sport.”

Mahoney is under no illusion he must be his ice-cool self against Mazoudier to emerge with the victory and a shiny new title.

And should he gain the desired outcome, the Queenslander knows bigger and better awaits.

“I’ve just got to put on a show,” Mahoney said

“I’ve got to box the way I know I can box. I’ve got power in both hands. My eyes are in. My speed’s good, my cardio is good.

“I’ve got to go in and execute what I know I can do and my hand will be raised.

“This fight should rocket me into the top 15 in the WBA. If I do that, then I’m looking at some bigger names and bigger fish to fry.”

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09/03/2023, by Ian Waterhouse