In this edition of Home Games History, David McPherson talks to the middleweight gold and bronze featherweight medalists from the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Even champions of the Commonwealth can have humble beginnings, and for Australian boxer Jarrod Fletcher it all started in the backyard.
“We had a single driveway that turned into a double at the end and we made that area into a boxing ring,” he said remembering where he spent his childhood with his father and two brothers.
“The Hervey Bay Boxing Club we called it and it was nothing flash I tell you.”
So when Fletcher eyed the aptly-named Adonis Stevenson across the ring at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, he already had a leg-up on his competition.
Fletcher knew how to fight at home.
“That constant roar it lifts you that little bit extra, I wasn’t going to lose in front of the home crowd,” he said.
The Victorian-born and Queensland-raised fighter says his performance in Melbourne is the jewel in the crown of his decorated career.
“It was my best tournament by far, it was my best form and I think it was my peak. I had no injuries at the time because as you get older they begin to build up.”
“Those guys I fought are absolute superstars now,” he said.
James DeGale – his semi-final opponent – has both Olympic gold and a professional world title.
Stevenson – who Fletcher beat 34 to 18 for the middleweight gold medal – also became a world champion.
Fletcher says he ‘boxed the ears off’ Stevenson in the final, despite momentarily hitting the canvas at the end of the second round.
“He caught me with a punch but I bounced up pretty quickly. Stevenson is very heavy-handed – if you look at his recent record it’s exceptional.”
As the captain of the boxing team, Jarrod ‘Left Jab’ Fletcher felt the pressure to deliver.
“The nerves came in the lead up from the pressure of being captain but once that first bell went in my first fight I was good to go,” he said.
“It was a great honour, I was captain for four or five years there and the travel I got to do and lifelong friends I made were unbelievable.”
Tasmanian Luke Jackson, who won a bronze medal in Melbourne, also came from humble beginnings.
“I was involved in some street fights as a kid and boxing got me out of trouble.”
“I was passionate about fighting and I had a few friends who boxed so they invited me along to the gym,” he said.
His performance in Melbourne was somewhat of a surprise.
“I’d only had about ten fights. I wasn’t expected to win a medal, I was just expected to go in and pick up a uniform I think,” he said.
“The Commonwealth Games were where I made my name. It was my platform and where I got started in the sport.”
Today Jackson wishes he’d known just how capable he was. He admits he went into his semi-final bout already content with what he’d achieved.
“As I get older and look back on it, maybe I was a little bit satisfied with the bronze and switched off. It wasn’t until the third or fourth round that I realised – I could’ve won this if I hadn’t mentally relaxed. You just get caught up in the bubble of the Games.”
The then 22-year-old was in awe of the Commonwealth Games experience.
“I was walking around like I was in a fantasy land – it’s one of the greatest memories of my whole life. I went to the Olympics but I think this beats it,” he said.
“I was on home turf and everything was all new to me. The vibe and aura in the air I can’t put into words. There were 5000 Australians screaming your name like they knew you – you can’t beat that. It was one of the best feelings of my life. I felt like a rock star.”
As athletes who have experienced all a home games has to offer, Fletcher and Jackson agree that the Aussies on the Gold Coast next year are in for the ride of their lives.
“It all comes down to preparation and leaving no stone unturned,” Fletcher said.
“You’ve got to give it all you’ve got because these things [home games] don’t happen often. I’m glad the athletes will experience it next year.”