by callum dick
JEFF Horn walked a unique path on his way to a WBO world championship title, and Demsey McKean hopes to one day follow in his footsteps.
Now the Ipswich boxer is one step closer to that dream, after claiming the undisputed Australian heavyweight title at The Melbourne Pavillion in Flemington.
McKean, now undefeated in 11 bouts, defeated Willie "Wild Bill" Nasio by way of technical knockout in the sixth round to consolidate the interim Australian heavyweight title he won in March this year.
The title fight was a long time coming for Mckean, with his opponent Nasio repeatedly pulling out of previously scheduled fights.
"Originally we were meant to fight in Darwin, and then on the Gold Coast and then it was pushed back to Melbourne," the towering six-foot-six boxer said.
"First he pulled out through injury, and then he voided our second contract by accepting a fight overseas.
"That's when the Australian Boxing Federation stepped in and said I should fight for the interim title, since he wanted to keep doing his own thing."
That fight, a 10th-round TKO of former Australian champion Hunter Sam, left Nasio with no choice but to finally step in the ring with the "Tower of Terror" McKean.
"It took almost a year and a half, it was a bit of a shambles but we finally managed to get down to business," the 27 year-old said.
"There was a lot of trash talking in the lead-up on his behalf, I suppose that was his game plan to hype up the fight.
"But after the fight you have to give respect where it's earned. He was nice and humble, and I was humble as well.
"I'm pretty proud of myself, it took a lot of hard work and it's still sinking in a bit, but yeah I'm just really happy with myself."
McKean's crowning title fight adds another to the Corporate Box Gym's mantelpiece which already includes Asia-Pacific, Queensland and a number of regional titles.
His ambitions extend beyond the bounds of Oceania, but McKean cautioned there are a few more notches to add to his title belt before that is realistic.
"You look at someone like Jeff Horn; he has only fought in Australia and New Zealand and yet he's the world champ," McKean said, referencing the 29 year-old schoolteacher's defeat of Manny Pacquiao in July.
"He showed you don't always have to go overseas to get those big fights.
"It shows anyone can reach that goal if you put in the work and have good management behind you, which I do.
"But I am still quite green.
"I'm only 27 and I still have a lot of time left in the sport so there is no point jumping in the deep end too early.
"A lot of people are focused on going overseas as soon as possible, but they don't realise you can build your record on home soil first."
The former MMA fighter only made his professional boxing debut a little under three years ago at the behest of his manager and promoter Kurtis Pegoraro.
Already accustomed to the rigours of training as a fighter, McKean fell in love with the hard work and dedication required to succeed at the upper echelons of the sport.
"Once the fight was locked in, I gave myself a 10-12 week training camp where I really had to knuckle down," he said.
"I trained six days a week about three times a day, it was just about pushing myself every day, getting fitter, stronger and sharper.
"People don't appreciate that with boxing comes a lot of sacrifices. It's probably the hardest sport in the world; not just the sparring and the fitness, but the mental strain as well.
"It's the general things you miss out on, you don't get to see your friends often and it can be quite a lonely sport.
"My girlfriend is very supportive of me, it gets tough at home but she understands I have a bigger goal and picture in mind."