Browne vs Whyte: Lucas Browne on his security background, the Ruslan Chagaev fall-out, and Australia’s reaction to his success
"I was never a bully, I was an enforcer. If someone was doing something to someone else, or to me, then they would definitely find out about it."
By James Dielhenn
Last Updated: 20/03/18 6:08am
Lucas Browne has a face that doesn’t fit, complete with a crown and a teardrop tattooed under each eye, writes James Dielhenn. He has never felt welcome, but is staying put.
He smashed his way through his older brother's mates as a kid, then later through lairy revellers as the doorman you would least like to antagonise. He became Australia's first world heavyweight champion without anyone noticing. Browne is the heavyweight contender who does not belong - he had not worn a pair of gloves until he approached 30, and now two failed drug tests are a black cloud that lingers. Yet, here he is.
"Zero," is his blunt answer when Sky Sports ask how much boxing training he did before his 29th birthday. "I worked in security as a bouncer, so I had on-the-job training. I've always liked the violent side of things so boxing wasn't a shock, let's put it that way. Working in security was a good thing to bring into boxing.
I've always liked the violent side of things so boxing wasn't a shock, let's put it that way.
"I am a destroyer. I'm not good at building things but I'll knock anything down.
"My dad was an alpha male. I've got a brother who is five years older and a brother who is six years younger. Playing simple games like football, I'd have to play against my older brother's mates. So it's always something that's been around me."
Aged 38, Browne has been boxing for less than nine years (many of those, inactively) and has strung together 25 unbeaten fights while accruing a WBA belt and a reputation as a feared puncher. You wonder where his career might have gone, had he focused from an earlier age.
"I spent daytimes with the kids, cooking and doing homework," Browne said of his 20s. "I went to work at night. Then my ex-wife and I split up. When they left I had a big hole to fill.
"I had always wanted to be the heavyweight champion of the world, having watched Mike Tyson. I thought I'd give it a go - I'd rather look back after having a go, than think 'what if'.
"Just before I turned 30 I had my first MMA fight, two weeks later I had a kickboxing fight, then one week later I had my first boxing fight. I jumped straight in.
"I saw MMA and thought: 'I can do that'. I trained for a few months but only once a week. I convinced the promoter to put me in, and I won my first fight. I sparred Mark Hunt who hit like a mule, which was daunting. Then I fought Daniel Cormier, who is now the UFC champion, which was a wake-up call that I couldn't wrestle or kick. That was a turning point for me."
It is impressive that Browne, essentially just the toughest guy in his city at that point, transitioned into a professional athlete. He "learned intricacies like footwork and balance" but nobody is pretending that Browne's methodology is to do anything other than to smash you as hard, and quickly, as possible.
He isn't interested by boxers with long and fabled amateur careers, and believes that his background on the nightclub doors can be better preparation for the difficulties found inside the ring.
"When they get into 10 or 12 rounds they realise it's a long fight, and if you can't knock someone out, you're in for a very long night," Browne says of young amateur prospects. "I can lose 11 rounds and still knock you out in the 12th. I truly believe there are two styles - mine does not suit the amateurs. I get better as the fight goes on. With just three rounds you have to go hammer and tongs, and I don't suit that."
Browne has won all five of his previous fights on UK soil, an ominous warning to upcoming rival Dillian Whyte, and has dispatched the likes of Richard Towers and Paul Butlin. James 'Lights Out' Toney, albeit the 44-year-old version, is a standout name on Browne's record.
Eventually, the call came to head to Chechnya to meet their champion, Ruslan Chagaev, who held the 'regular' version of the WBA title otherwise owned by Wladimir Klitschko. That fight in 2016, for all its highs and lows, still defines Browne as he prepares to headline in London against Whyte.
He said: "Do I say no to a world title shot? Or do I go into the lion's den? Away we went. I was treated like a movie star with a police escort and armed guards, and fans wanted photos.
"I went in-depth into their culture. It was great to see Islam at its finest, I visited mosques. There are no tattoos, no smoking or alcohol. It was good to see the purity of it. But I was there for a job - after I knocked [Chagaev] out, we were jumping around but I told everyone to 'shut up' because the crowd wasn't making a sound."
Browne still has a "sour taste" after the first of two failed drug tests, taken post-fight, causing him to be stripped of the belt that made him a history-maker in Australia.
"Three days before the fight I was tested and was completely clean," Browne told Sky Sports Toe 2 Toe podcast. "Clenbuterol was in my post-fight test. It's for stripping weight. At that point, it does nothing for me. I did a lie-detector test to prove my innocence."
He was later exonerated only to fail a second test and explained: "I went to the local supplement shop. There was something [in a pre-workout supplement] that was on the banned list."
Although he maintains his innocence, it has majorly contributed to his status as an outsider. Browne argues that he was never truly accepted, even down under.
"This is the unfortunate part," he remembers of what he expected to be a triumphant homecoming carrying Australia's first world heavyweight title. "Jeff Horn, for example after he beat Manny Pacquiao, was given the key to his city and a parade. I had four reporters wait for me at the airport, and that's it. That was disappointing. It was because of who Horn fought - if I had fought Wladimir Klitschko, for example, it would have been different. Once the drugs thing came up, there were 10 people waiting to talk."
That WBA belt will forever be a part of Browne, tattooed across his neck, alongside tribal patterns and the facial teardrop which represents his father's passing. He arrives in Britain alongside the ever-popular Ricky Hatton, as his promoter, yet still feels like the odd-man out at heavyweight. Maybe he should never have been in this position, but who's going to tell him otherwise?
Watch Dillian Whyte against Lucas Browne at The O2 on March 24, live on Sky Sports.