Rowles Soars toward third Games

Richie Rowles, 31, probably the hardest punching flight attendant on earth, is just a couple of knockouts away from fighting at his third Olympic Games after a sizzling performance at the Australian amateur titles in Adelaide last weekend.

The last time Rowles represented Australia he lost in his second bout at Sydney 2000, to a German named Adnan Catic, who on June 5, under his adopted name of Felix Sturm, defends the WBO middleweight title against Oscar De La Hoya, the richest boxer in history.

By then Rowles hopes he will be in the final preparation for his assault on Athens and a third Olympics, a destination that seemed off the map after his last Olympic disappointment.

"After losing to Catic, I gave boxing away for a while and went into athletics, doing sprint training at the University of Queensland with Paul Di Bella and Sharon Cripps," he said.

"But the chance to be a three-time Olympian got me back into boxing early last year."

Rowles still has to win a challenge round in Canberra in two weeks and the Oceania championships in Tonga starting on April 26 but his explosive power makes him the 75kg front-runner.

In Adelaide on the weekend he took the national championship, winning a close decision over Newcastle southpaw Jamie Pittman and then pounding out a stoppage of Canberra's Adam Lovelock, using a right fist rebuilt with pieces of his hip after the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

Born in New Guinea, Rowles, came to Brisbane with his mother and brother at the age of three after his father was killed near Lae piloting a charter aircraft.

He started boxing at 11 and won a bronze medal at the 1994 Commonwealth Games where his good mate Robbie Peden took gold.

Other winners at the national titles were Sydney Olympians Daniel Geale (69kg) and Bradley Hore (51kg), Sydney's James Ronaldson (60kg) and Jamie Withers (81kg) and Queenslanders Todd Kidd (64kg) and Ryan Langham (57kg) who won over Commonwealth Games rep Greg Eadie.


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