It is early 2011 and 75-year-old Happy Tenana is laying as comfortably as he can in his bedroom in Auckland. Happy has cancer and is in his final stages of his journey.
On the television in front of him he sees the bright lights and Hollywood shuffle of Sonny Bill Williams heading toward a boxing ring, his close friend Anthony Mundine close by.
Williams wins his fight on the Gold Coast with Mundine shouting instructions from the blue corner throughout the six rounds.
At the end of the third round, the camera peers over Mundine’s shoulder.
“”How ya feeling? Ya feeling good Sonny?”
Mundine gets Happy thinking.
But before we go on, let’s make something clear.
The world is a sale and each and every one of us has a brand to sell, whether you like Mundine or not, his ability to sell himself and his bouts can’t be ignored. Throughout his career, the dual sportsman has made himself must-watch and he has played his role to perfection.
Today’s society thirsts for the scandal, for the next scandalous story. But what follows here is a story that proves Mundine is more than just a headline.
“It was 2011, March I think, it was just after Sonny Bill Williams won a boxing match,” Happy’s son Paris tells The81stMinute.
“Dad was watching it from his bed; he was in the later stages of cancer, basically waiting to die. He looked up to us and said, ‘You know I’d really love to meet Anthony Mundine before I die’.
“The very next morning we got on to Facebook and found that there was three Anthony Mundine Facebook pages. My sister wrote to one and I wrote to the other two and explained that dad had been a longtime fan and had been since the beginning of his career. [We asked] was there any chance we could organize a meeting?”
Where to from here?
Maybe a phone call?
“My sister left her mobile number on all three pages and the very next morning at 9am, we get a phone call on Claudine’s phone. I tried to listen in and I heard her say ‘Can you repeat that?’”.
On the other end of the line was none other than Mundine himself.
“And he did the whole gimmick too. ‘Hey it’s The Man here, have you got a lounge for us to crash on?’”.
Within a few hours Anthony was on the three hour flight to New Zealand with his dad, Tony.
“That afternoon he turned up with his dad, in Auckland, about 4pm and stayed the full night with dad. The whole night, slept on the lounge” Paris continued.
“They talked about everything. Boxing career, football career, it was a Saturday night so they were watching footy together, ate dinner and helped out with everything”.
‘The Man’ was still back in Sydney, but in this unforgettable moment, 75-year-old Happy Tenana was with Anthony Mundine the man, sharing stories, laughing, respecting.
You could excuse Mundine for coming back to Australia and letting the memory of his time in Auckland fade into a distant memory as the hustle and bustle and showmanship returned. The great sportsman had a rematch with fan favourite underdog Garth Wood coming up and would surely be 100% focused on exacting revenge for a shock loss to Wood in early December of 2010.
But when Mundine was told Happy had passed away, he was back on a plane to Auckland.
“The day that dad died, Mundine was over the next day for the funeral.
“The funeral was up Bay of Islands, about a four hour drive from Auckland.”
“He not only flew himself over but drove the four hours to get there on his own dime”.
If only we heard more stories like this one about one of Australia’s most misunderstood sporting icons.