Mick on road to redemption, by Nick Walshaw -
17th November 2007
The Daily Telegraph)
MICK Cutajar has nothing to show
me when quizzed about his greatest fights. Standing
in the downstairs sanctuary of his Wollongong
home, sunlight blasts from rows of judo trophies
and jujitsu cups, medallions, plaques and swords
. . . even a laptop runs YouTube video from his
Extreme Fighting days.
it's his other prizes we've come to discuss. Those
"Cutta" will later spend a good 90 minutes
explaining from a black leather lounge.
his worrying bouts of claustrophobia, for example.
And wariness in the dark. A 100kg enforcer who
still jumps sharply whenever doors slam.
Long Bay prison fights, mate, they still haunt
me," Cutajar concedes. "Like the one
in the shower block, first year inside.
the time, there'd been a lot of s . . . going
down between me and another fella. A paedophile.
this particular afternoon there were six of us
there. Then there were two. So you fight or die
in the shower."
so Cutajar fought; a chaotic couple of seconds
that left his rival lying unconscious on the tiles.
Smashed face, broken leg and three distinct chest
wounds from a shiv hidden inside his towel.
became of the bloke? Dunno," Cutajar deadpans.
"Hospitalised, obviously. Then moved.
I wasn't concerned about his welfare, his wife
and kids. My only thought was 'f . . ., OK, I'm
"Cutta" Cutajar is the Australian judo
champion who has spent his entire life fighting.
Year 9 high school dropout - "I was sick
of getting bullied and chased home" - who
is now just 265 days from becoming THE story of
our 2008 Beijing Olympic team.
tournaments are yet to be contested before March.
A handful of Aussies still in contention.
already this Wollongong Warrior is daring to dream.
Of sponsorship deals and coaching gigs, movie
roles and book deals. He even wants to publish
a secret prison diary he kept buried in some Long
Bay garden bed.
last week Mick's parents told him to contact 60
Minutes. Because an Aussie prisoner at the Olympics
would be interesting, they said. Maybe mention
you shared a cell with Ivan Milat too.
Liz Hayes would love to read this eclectic resume
of a convicted armed robber, Kings Cross bouncer,
Guns N' Roses bodyguard and diamond courier -
once moving $5.2 million interstate around his
Mick has fought coppers, drunks, prisoners, world
champions, even some junkie brandishing a bloody
for someone like me to finally make the Olympic
qualifying, it's special," the 39-year-old
understates. "And to own that Olympian tag,
mate, it would change my life forever.
I've fought for everything I have. It's been almost
15 years since I left jail and still no one wants
to employ me fulltime.
judo competitions people I've never even met approach
me saying 'Oh, you're the armed robber'. Mate,
yes, but I have done a few positive things with
my life since then."
best place to start Cutajar's incredible story
is November 1995, when he received three years
for a bungled robbery attempt.
yarn itself is a convoluted web of lies, deception
and betrayal. But, for the sake of brevity, Mick
walked into a security company wearing a balaclava,
overcoat and contact lenses.
KO'ed two security guards. Bound them with a third
staffer. Removed their guns - "in the process
going from common thief to armed robber"
- and made off with a cool $39,000.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
nothing happened for about five months,"
Cutajar recalls. "I'd actually been given
a role in that film Blue Murder , as a drug dealer
selling to Neddy Smith. Two days later the coppers
had me for real."
then this martial artist entered the most important
phase of his fighting career.
something is about to go down in prison, mate,
the air changes," Cutajar explains.
joint is normally loud, crowded. Then everything
goes quiet and this mysterious barrier of about
10 metres suddenly appears around you . . ."
course, Cutajar was prepared. A tattooed tyro
who once ran with a mob of toughs who offered
this line before fights . . . "winner throws
loser from the nightclub roof".
only saw it happen once," Cutajar recalls.
"The bloke had broken ribs, smashed pelvis.
But he never squealed once going down, you have
to respect him for that."
still they came at Cutajar inside. Tattooed fists,
sharpened pen barrels, socks filled with eight
balls and glass honey jars.
is so intense," Mick says. "Fights,
rapes, stabbings, hangings.
50kg junkie can have a bad day and take it out
on you. So, boom, you're dead.
once saw a bloke kissing his children during visiting
hours, an hour later he was raping some poor kid
and stealing his sneakers.
talk about Ivan Milat, but he certainly wasn't
the worst bloke in there."
roomed with Australia's notorious serial killer
for six months inside the Bay. Working in the
bakery, lifting weights in the gym, close enough
for Ivan to joke "I never knew you had a
younger sister" whenever Mick's mum came
who am I to judge when we're sharing a cell,"
mean, he was certainly better than those blokes
boiling baby oil in jugs . . . they tipped them
on cell mates as they slept."
these horror stories are now, however, just that
for Mick - keen to prove his fighting qualities
go beyond two fists that Blitz magazine once gushed
"could knock out a bull".
overlooked by the University of Wollongong, this
unlikely scholar persisted and in 2005 graduated
with a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree.
doesn't drink. Has never touched drugs. Hoping
one degree and three diplomas will now help him
in paying back that $39,000 at $40 per month.
also runs two gyms, one family, trains daily,
works extra jobs and is trying to publish a 307-page
judo manual penned in prison.
he keeps chasing those Olympic rings. Because
"Cutta" knows if prisoner becomes product,
sponsors start knocking, publishers sign deals
and parents eagerly shove children inside your
I won't medal at the Olympics," Cutajar concludes.
"But even to qualify, mate, that'd make my
world a better place.
spent the best part of 30 years putting blokes
on the ground, only to realise that nothing beats
critics quite like your own success. And you don't
always need a trophy for that."
Cutajar official website
Cutajar - YouTube