The Fight Night craze – positives and negatives
That famous line from the Frankie Goes To Hollywood song, 'Two Tribes', came to mind last Saturday night as I performed the role of M.C. for a G.A.A. fundraising night.
'When two tribes go to war' was never more apt than in the hotel ballroom where two tribes did, literally, go to war against one another in the confines of the boxing ring.
It's unlikely that even at the height of the Roman Empire and on the biggest day of the year in the Coliseum that the noise would have surpassed the deafening din that erupted from the packed house as each pair of boxers went toe to toe for parish pride.
These events are hugely popular all across the country and they harvest rich pickings from communities to fill the suffering coffers of G.A.A clubs and in that sense they are hugely positive.
But, they have their critics as well and as I watched the events unfold last Saturday night (in some cases it was akin to watching two speeding juggernauts collide head on and in other cases it was like witnessing two randy bull elephants do battle over the love of a sexy cow), I considered a number of pros and cons for these events.
I've rarely ever witnessed two communities get behind a team to the extent that both communities rallied behind their troops at the weekend. This was raw adoration and support. This was something like the owners of the lions and the families of the unfortunate Christians lining up in the terraces of the Coliseum to cheer on the battle that would ensue.
Nobody held anything back. Mammys, daddys, brothers, sisters, cousins, partners, they all let rip with a savage enthusiasm and at different stages the noise was incredible as the G.A.A players donned the boxing gloves.
Championship final day is the only other occasion I can think of where such unchecked passion is released with abandon and it is a wonderful sight to behold.
At the end of the day that's why both clubs sent forward their 12 best boxers and, going by the numbers, there's little need to fear about healthy profits.
If a venue was to hold 1,000 or 1,200 people and with tickets generally priced at €20 and with a well-supported raffle at €5 a ticket or three for €10, then you are looking at a serious windfall for the clubs involved when expenses are removed, and there's little doubt that all unnecessary costs are trimmed with a merciless attitude similar to that shown by the Troika.
Again, something to behold. During a bad fight it can lull but when two men or women stand toe to toe there's little else that can inspire what can only be described as baying from the crowd.
On Saturday night the mechanics of the evening were that a pair of local celebrities known as the 'The Bear' and 'The Duck' were unveiled to the crowd and they took up position in a sort of once-off loft construction that resembled the theatre box from where Statler and Waldorf used to vent their spleen during 'The Muppets'.
Between each round a discussion between myself and the two characters took place with each one trying to get the upper hand on the other.
All boxers entered the arena to a song of their own choosing while attractive round announcers paraded inside the ropes during the breaks between the rounds.
These moments can create wonderful comedy when handled correctly.
Nothing and nobody can take away from the effort put in by all the boxers of events such as these.
Since December most of the 24 boxers had been undergoing instruction and training, giving up their time for the good of their club and for that they deserve special mention and sincere gratitude from all involved.
Lovers of Boxing
I can really only think of one negative and that is in terms of the sport of boxing. For fans of the old pugilism I'm afraid these events are nothing short of perverse.
Two months of preparation (some didn't have close to that) is a ridiculous time frame to expect a man or woman who has never fought before (in a ring at least) to somehow understand and execute the skills of boxing.
So, what unfolds is, at times, a horrendous wrestling match or a brutal slogging between two fighters where luck has more to do with victory than any sort of skill or ability.
Some years back I approached my former boxing trainer to ask if he would take my clubmates on for eight weeks to prepare them for a fight night we were holding. He refused outright and said that unless he had six months to prepare the participants then he wouldn't even consider it. It didn't take me long to realise how absolutely correct he was.
Boxing is a skill where defence plays as vital a role as attack does. It's not a game; it's not something to be taken lightly. People have died while boxing and a very great fear takes hold of me when I see two Man Mountains step through the ropes to go toe to toe and where one blow can cause serious damage.
That's not to say that all efforts are not made in case of such an eventuality, nor is it to say that the training over the two months is inadequate in any way, but it's simply not enough time. You wouldn't expect a chess player to play a Junior hurling game with only two months of training. You could throw him in for the craic but it wouldn't be long before you'd have checkmate.
New Ross Standard