By HARRY CLARKE
STONELEIGH Jackson has his sights set on the pinnacle of the boxing world after successfully defending his Australasian welterweight title and bringing his remarkable record in the ring to 10 wins from 10 fights.
Stoneleigh, whose real name is Jackson Griffiths, fended off a challenge by Victorian fighter Hunter Ioane before a home crowd in Pittsworth on Saturday, defeating his most competitive opponent yet by unanimous decision.
In doing so the 21-year-old has cemented his place as one of Australia’s most exciting up and coming boxers, and also validated the moniker for which he’s become known – The Pride of Pittsworth.
“It was a bloody tough fight,” Griffiths told the Caller following his defeat of Ioane.
“You’d whack him and he just would’t move. He was tough and I could see that with the amount of fights and experience he has, and he knows a few tricks when you get up there.
“It was a good test for me. He’s fought the best in Australia and for me to pull off a win was an unbelievable feeling.”
More than 600 spectators packed into the Pittsworth Town Hall on Saturday night for a unique boxing event hosted by TGW & Smithy’s Promotions.
As well as an eight-fight amateur card and a three-fight professional card, there was a nine-fight corporate card which saw a lineup of bull riders from across Australia pulling on boxing gloves and throwing flurries of punches at one-another in the ring.
“It all began with Jed “Gunson” Morris, who was a bull rider and is now a professional fighter in our team,” said event promotor and renowned Darling Downs boxing gym coach and owner, Brendan Smith.
“Gunson’s friend Jake Curr is a bull rider and he wanted to have a corporate fight, so we came up with the idea, we put the call out, and the cowboys came from everywhere.
“For our shows we always do amateur, professionals and corporates, and most of the time the corporate fights have been footballers – rugby league and rugby union – but we’d never down cowboys.
“They called in from everywhere keen to have a go, so we made it a while cowboy themed night. The boys loved it and the crowd loved it.
Among the cowboy fighters were renowned Australian bull riders Sam Curr, Troy Wilkinson, Jack Banks and Dan Ruhland, who are champions of the PBR national circuit and had the crowd in a frenzy with a tag-team boxing bout.
Hometown hero Jackson Griffiths was well suited to the cowboy theme – his skills as a horse breaker during his teenage years were what led to him becoming a boxer under the mentorship of veteran Pittsworth trainer Brad Smith, father of promoter Brendan Smith.
“One of my teachers at school knew my trainer, Brad, and Brad’s into the race horses,” Griffiths said.
“He knew that back in school I used to break in horses and ride horses, and he said ‘Brad’s got a couple of horses that he might need breaking in and riding’.
“So I went down and I broke in two of two of his horses and rode a couple or them on the track.
“I can’t remember if I asked Brad if he could teach me how to box, or if we just got talking one day, but he just started me off in his car port one day with a boxing bag and away we went.
“I started hitting the bag and six weeks later I had my first amateur fight.”
Brad Smith’s race horse property north Pittsworth where ran his horses is in a locality by the name of Stoneleigh, which also happens to be where Jackson Griffiths was raised as a boy.
One of the young thoroughbreds he broke in while working for Brad was given the stable name Stoneleigh Jackson.
So, naturally, Stoneleigh Jackson also became Griffiths’ fighting name when we first got into the ring.
Griffiths said the alias was a nod to his coach and his upbringing, as well as an expression his appreciation for the district he calls home.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to go out and fight in your home town. You don’t always get to do that,” Griffiths said.
“For Brendan to be able to put on another show out there this soon was just awesome.
“The whole Pittsworth is just a great community and they always get behind their local boys, whether it’s in football or boxing.
“I just like the town, the way they all get behind their boys, and I can’t thank them enough or getting behind me.”
Promoter Brendan Smith said: “We loving bringing it out to Pittsworth, out in the country, we hope to do this one year and I’d really like to explore doing more country shows.
“The town, the hospitality of the town, it’s like our home town, they always come out and support and get behind all fighters, not just the locals, it’s tremendous,” he said.