Discussion over at Grods about Jeff Fenech’s decision to re-enter the ring at the tender age of 43 rekindled memories of my brother in law Mat’s one and only time inside ring. Below is a copy of an email I sent to some friends at the time.
From: Dave from Albury
Sent: Sunday, 24 April 2005 1:11 AM
Subject: Albury Boganfest ’05
This weekend seriously challenged the people of Albury. On one hand, at the showground, there was the excitement of monster trucks, demolition derby and a giant mechanical car eating, fire breating dinosour. Alternatively, at a local pub, there was the thrill of blokes beating the crap out of each other in a sanctioned environment – boxing. For your humble narrator there was no choice, Rach’s brother Mat was making his debut as an amateur boxer.
As I left the Dave from Albury compound in East Albury I could hear the crowd’s cheers and the roar of internal combustion engines from the showground. As much as I wanted to sniff the sweet ethanol burning I knew that my place was at the Kinross woolshed to lend my support to Rach’s baby brother.
We entered the arena early to give Mat ample time to prepare for his bout. The Kinross Woolshed was a remarkable sight, I’m still not entirely sure whether there were more crew cuts, mullets or rat’s tails in the crowd. Despite the overwhelming stench of testosterone I can honestly say I have never spent an evening in a pub where all the of patrons were so polite, everyone was petrified that the person they just bumped into was lined up for a fight later in the night.
The opening bout was a 45kg fight – a pair of kids. The Australian Medical Association may say that letting kids box is inappropriate, but I have to say – if it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. The tall skinny kid and the short tubby kid threw everything they had into 3 rounds and set the scene for an evening where there was much more enthusiasm than skill. The fat kid was declared the winner to the delight of the crowd, who knew much less about scoring a bout than we liked to admit.
Mat was in the fourth fight of the night. Now most of you will know that Mat is a tall, fit bastard who I refuse to stand next to in family photos as I hate the comparison (he’s actually 6 days younger than me). But as the bell rang to initiate the first round I saw an overwhelmed expression on Mat’s face that I had never seen before. The fighter in the red trunks took an early lead as Mat came to terms with the experience of being in the ring. Unfortunately for Mat, he tripped over his own feet while dodging a series of punches and ended up on his arse. This led to Mat being behind on points. At the end of round one we worried how the next two rounds would unfold.
Our fears were unfounded, as once the bell rang to begin round two Mat re-entered the ring with such an obvious sense of purpose that our concern shifted to the well-being of his opponent. Mat’s footwork was exceptional, his evasion was well timed and he sat the other guy on his arse twice, once after knocking him through the ropes. Unfortunately for Mat, his opponent turned his head away on a few occasions, which meant that Mat thumped the back of his head, a non scoring (although very painful) shot. After three rounds the guy in the red trunks could barely remain upright, while Mat was hitting his straps.
The crowd had no doubt as to who the best boxer had been, but in a split decision the bout was awarded to the now incoherent competitor in the red trunks. While we were disappointed for Mat, it was a commendable debut. Within a few minutes Mat was celebrating his first fight, sharing a few drinks with us, while the ‘winner’ of bout four was passed out in the change rooms. I rest my case……. Throughout the evening Mat was accosted by strangers, wanting to tell him how badly he was robbed and how much he would have won by given another round.
The evening continued smoothly until after bout eight when there was a brief intermission. During this break audience members were invited to partake in a ‘fun’ bout using comedically oversized boxing gloves. I can now say with all sincerity that you have not lived until you have seen two drunk women trying to box. The ferocity rivalled any of the fights we had seen before and it was pure mercy that the gloves prevented hair pulling. The blokes bout was sadly lacking in passion after the zealous effort of the ‘ladies’.
To the apparent shock of the promoter and the security staff, the intermission also provided the perfect opportunity for random audience members to punch on. The crowd was packed so tight that security had trouble moving their way to the troublemakers, which didn’t disappoint the crowd one bit. Eventually the fighters in the crowd were removed and the fight card ran its course. This disappointed me greatly as one of the guys removed was due to shout next.
All in all, a fantastic night was had by all. Boxing is now my new favourite spectator sport.