George Samardali isn’t slow to count his blessings.
Being the father of Western Australia’s only boxer at next month’s Commonwealth Games naturally fills him with pride. But the fact 20-year-old Jordan’s brother will be in Glasgow to cheer him on brings emotions of a different kind.
Four years ago, Laith Samardali was left fighting for his life after an argument on a night out resulted in him being smashed across the back of the head more than once with a concrete slab. He was in a coma for a week and George was told to prepare for the worst.
“Every doctor told me if he did come out of a coma he would be brain damaged for good, he would be a cabbage, or he would be scared of everything. God has given me more than I deserved.”
Thankfully Laith, now 25, proved the doctors wrong and the bond between the brothers shone through in the family’s darkest hour.
“When he came out of the coma his first word was ‘Jordan’,” George, a devout Catholic, says. “A few days later Jordan had a (boxing) fight. Afterwards he came into the hospital and gave Laith his trophy and said, ‘that’s for you’. It made me cry.”
The tears have stopped but the assault left Laith’s own boxing ambitions high and dry.
“It took a good year (to recover),” Laith says.
“I’d like to say I’m a better person but actually not really. I can’t get into certain situations, so I don’t. But even then I didn’t, it was just … that’s the way it goes. It’s more the boxing, I love boxing.”
Now he lives the sport through Jordan, the youngest of five boys in a close-knit Mullaloo family who only followed Laith and eldest brother Michael into the ring to lose weight.It turned out Jordan was the best of the lot and in April he claimed the 81kg national title in Fremantle and was named boxer of the tournament.
“All my friends, they try to tease me, saying ‘Are you jealous of your brother?’ you know … of course I’m jealous but not in the sense that I begrudge him,” Laith says.
“I would love to be in that position, but he’s worked so hard for where he is, he deserves everything. Because I wasn’t able to do it, I love the fact he’s able to do it. And every chance I get I will help him.”
That includes letting Jordan work for him as a concreter.
“We always tease him, saying he makes more money when he doesn’t work than when he does work,” Laith says. “When he has a big tournament and trains twice a day, I’ll fund him and tell him I don’t want him working, I just want him training.”
Jordan, the godfather to Laith’s three-month-old son Isaac, laughs along, firing back like any good fighter.
When Laith says how he loves watching Jordan box, he interrupts: “What? You love me? Aahh …”
Jordan was only 16 when his brother was seriously hurt and for once his big grin disappears.
“It was emotional,” he says. “When I was training and he was in the coma, I had it at the back of my head all the time. I just wasn’t focused.”
The likeable light-heavyweight, who trains under Danny Green’s old amateur coach Pat Devellerez, was speaking having just finished an intense three-week camp at the Australian Institute of Sport and was preparing to return to Canberra before leaving for the UK in the middle of July.
New to international competition, Jordan has already mapped out his career path.
“It’s one step at a time but the aim is the Commonwealth Games first, then the Olympics, then I want to go pro when I’m 22, 23, when I’ll be a bit more developed,” the former Ocean Reef Senior High School student says.
Laith, with wife Jemille smiling on, cautions Jordan against getting too far ahead of himself, but he soon gets caught up in the moment, too.
“Fighters who turn pro who haven’t done too much in the amateurs, they can’t get promoted so easily because people don’t know who they are,” Laith says. “We want Jordan making a statement at the Commonwealth Games. A lot of people get excited that they get to the Commonwealth Games but no, we want the gold. And the same goes for the Olympics in 2016.”
Considering Australia did not win one boxing medal at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 and have won just five medals in the sport in Olympic history, none gold, they cannot be accused of setting the bar low.
For now it’s all about Glasgow and Boxing Australia’s new head coach Kevin Smith says Jordan should not be discounted.
“He is improving all the time, he is only a young lad and new to the international arena,” Smith says.
“He is definitely one for the future but hopefully good enough to succeed in the present as well.”