Anthony Mundine reached out to Australia yesterday — but it didn't sound like anyone was listening.
The 43-year-old has made a career out of being The Man everyone loves to hate, and never was that more evident than at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
A crowd that had been building steadily throughout the night quickly found its voice the moment the ring announcer mentioned Mundine's name. Boos rang out when the 30,000 odd people in attendance realised Australia's biggest sports villain was leaving the tunnel and the decibel level only got louder as he walked to the ring.
That was in complete contrast to the raucous cheers celebrating hometown hero Jeff Horn's arrival. There were some boos for him though — but only when the referee cautioned the 30-year-old early in the bout. It seemed nobody wanted anything to get in the way of Mundine getting put on his backside.
If Suncorp had a roof it would have been blown off when Horn landed the punch that sent his opponent crashing to the canvas.
As much as it was a win for nice guy Horn the result marked a sombre ending to a stellar career for Mundine, who many suggested should have hung up the gloves years ago. There was something sad about seeing a sporting icon bow out the way he did — not that you'd know it from the reaction of the Suncorp crowd, who were ultra enthusiastic after having an extra hour to drown Bundy Rums and tins of XXXX as the main event was delayed until after 10.30pm local time.
Maybe the unforgiving reaction to Mundine's knockdown was exaggerated by those who passed the long wait by sinking a couple more schooners, or maybe it was a reflection that no matter how hard Mundine tries to position himself in retirement, he'll always be considered by many an arrogant tosser. Perhaps all the trash talk and controversy over the years have pushed him past the point of no return and for the many Australians who can't stand him, nothing he says or does now will change their opinion.
In the lead-up to the River City Rumble Horn told broadcaster Mark Howard's podcast The Howie Games when his career was over he hoped people remembered him as a freak of an athlete. Someone whose personality may grate, but whose sporting prowess is unquestioned.
It was a sentiment he repeated in the ring on Friday when he said in his post-fight interview he hoped people respected him for what he's done in 25 years across rugby league and boxing even if they didn't like him.
"I want to thank the Australian public. You guys played a big role whether you like me or not," Mundine said.
Ironically, you could barely hear his plea such was the cacophony of booing. Perhaps it's too big an ask for the haters to forgive his comments about September 11 and his views on homosexuality to reflect purely on his athletic accomplishments.
Respect is earned and Mundine hopes he's at least done that, even while ticking plenty of people off.
"I hope so, man," Mundine said in his post fight press conference when asked if he hoped those who booed last night walked away with respect for him, if not a fondness.
"I just want them to get to know the real me.
"I just want to be remembered for somebody that's real, somebody that speaks the truth."
Mundine has always been boastful of his speed and during his 18-year boxing career his tongue has regularly moved at a quicker pace than his feet. Often it was difficult to understand why he said some of the things he did and the "real" Mundine has never been easy to define because those outside his inner sanctum rarely see it.
But he came clean on Friday about what was behind his motor mouth. Of course, people already knew Mundine's trash talking was to sell fights but it became so synonymous with every public appearance you could be forgiven for wondering if what started as an act had become something more than that.
"All the hype and all the bulls*** that I talk, you guys get caught up in up all the time but I'm really a cool cat, down to earth, pious and humble," Mundine said.
"I just want to say all the trash I talk, we're in the entertainment business and I've got to try and get bums on seats, get people talking.
"Obviously a lot of people are going to like it, a lot of them are not going to like it so you're going to get your detractors and lovers and supporters.
"It's part of the game."
It was a candid admission 18 years in the making — but whether it makes a difference to how people perceive, or respect, him, remains to be seen.
You only have to look at the stream of negative social media comments on an article by this website this week about Mundine's assessment of Horn benefiting from "white privilege" to know the court of public opinion doesn't favour the former NRL star. There was barely a kind word, let alone a kind sentence, to be found.
Whether it takes Mundine retiring from the fight game for Australians to consider cutting him some slack remains to be seen. That's if they even care enough anymore to listen when he wants it most.