Archive for the ‘Boxing’ Category

Muay Thai Boxing, Bangkok, Saturday 24th December 2016

March 9, 2017

Jen and I have already been to Bangkok a couple of times this year, but my plans to see some football had been thwarted by heavy traffic on the first occasion and then, on our next visit, by the cancelling of their FA Cup final due to the Royal mourning period.

This time we were in town so that Jen could run in the Christmas Day Half Marathon. The 2016 Thai football season is over though and so I’ll have to wait until March or so to get to a game.

The race began at 4am, a time that I regarded as ideal for getting up on Christmas morning as a child, but one that seems a little on the early side these days. Still, it went well and I was able to cheer her home in what turned out to be a year’s best time.

The previous night we’d went along to Lumpinee Stadium to see some Thai boxing. It was quite difficult to grasp the ticketing situation. From what I could work out, there were three categories of ticket; ringside, second class and third class and priced at 2,000, 1,500 and 1,000 baht respectively.

I think, although I’m not certain, that the ringside and second class tickets can be bought either from the box office or from one of the boxing clubs associated with the stadium. I presume that the clubs get a bulk discount that enables them to sell the tickets at face value and still be able to take a cut of the price.

We bought ringside seats through one of the clubs and were given a ‘free’ tee-shirt each before being escorted to a section of reserved seats at ringside. Our chairs were in the second row, but had we arrived earlier we could have taken a front-row seat.

The stadium wasn’t that big. There were only three rows around the ring and the remaining seats beyond that were banked. To our right was the second class area that had individual seating. I had a wander into that section and it provided a decent view. It was further away from the action than our ringside seats, but it had the advantage that the view wasn’t obscured by the ropes.

On our left was what I assumed to be the third class section. It didn’t have seats but had concrete terracing. Initially people were sat down but as the action started everyone stood. Most of the people in the third class section looked to be local, whereas in the ringside and second class areas it seemed to be foreign tourists.

There was plenty of betting action going on in Third Class, with wagers being struck via shouts and waved fingers, presumably denoting the round in which the fight would end. It all appeared very chaotic, a little I suppose, like the stock market trading used to be. The settling up of stakes and returns took place in the much less frenzied atmosphere at the end of each bout.

Each fight lasted for up to five, three minute rounds and there were twelve contests on the card. The fighter’s weights ranged from about seven and a half stone up to maybe, nine and a half. I’d have thought we might have seen some lighter boxers, although I don’t know the rules on weigh-ins. Maybe the listed weights are ‘on-the-day’ weights rather than from the day before and prior to re-hydration.

I’d initially wondered if the boxers were all ‘house fighters’. Their club affiliations were listed on the bout sheet though and they came from a variety of different clubs.

I’d not seen Muay Thai live before and I was struck by how brutal it was compared to regular boxing. The infighting consisted mainly of kicks to the legs and knees or to the guts or ribs. I’d expect that cracked ribs are commonplace.

The fellas spent a lot of time on the floor as well. Grappling and then throwing your opponent to the canvas, before falling on top of him was routine. Again, I’d have thought that broken bones would be a frequent occurrence. The referee would often be caught up in a fall and the fighter at the bottom of the pile risked having two bodies land on top of him.

First bell was at 4:30 in the afternoon and each fight was quickly followed by the next. The initial four bouts which included the main event were televised. We had an early night planned due to the 3am alarm call for the next day’s race and so we left after a couple of hours and six of the twelve fights.

It was an entertaining evening though and so next time we are in town I’ll try and check out one of the other Muay Thai venues.

Boxing at Darwin, Saturday 27th February 2016

June 28, 2016

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There’s not much goes on in Darwin. It doesn’t tend to be included when bands are arranging their tour schedules and the sport is local rather than national level.

I was therefore quite pleased when I saw a night of boxing planned, particularly when I read that it featured a bout for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Really? In Darwin? Well, yes and no. It was for a heavyweight title, but that of the WBF.

It’s hard to keep track of all the champions these days but as belts go the WBF strap is in Bank of Princess Susy territory. I think Audley Harrison had it for a while and maybe even ‘Aussie’ Joe Bugner. They were definitely high points for the organisation though and this promotion was matching boxers with world rankings of 104 and 211 respectively.

Still, it’s a night out and with our $125 dollar tickets Jen and I got seats on the front row of the banked seating, just behind the tables of people scoffing steak and prawns.

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If the headline fight promised little, the undercard delivered less. It was all heavyweights and the first bout appeared to be between two blokes who had just left the pub. The one with the bigger belly was nicknamed ‘The Knife’, something which I’m sure must have caused some trepidation for his opponent.

‘The Knife’ was less keen on fighting than he was on, say, chopping vegetables and he kept falling to the canvas whenever the other fella  aimed a punch in his direction. Eventually the ref could take no more and stopped proceedings on the three knockdown rule.

Fight two featured a baldy bouncer who had so many folds of fat on the back of his head that it looked like his brain was escaping. He also had little desire to stick around with someone trying to punch him in the chops and whilst he complained bitterly when the ref stepped in you could tell that his mind was already on a shower and a beer.

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Next up was an aboriginal bloke who seemed to be fighting in underwear boxer shorts rather than boxing boxer shorts. He also just wore normal trainers. Despite his lack of proper gear he seemed quite good. Unfortunately he looked to have been matched against someone twice his size and the other bloke just pushed down on him until he wore him out.

Fight four had an international flavour to it with Clarence Tillman from New Orleans fighting what might have been a Russian bloke.The skinny Russian didn’t have much of a punch on him but it was sufficient to cause Tillman, who had bigger tits than most of the ring girls,to quit in his corner.

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The penultimate bout was for the Australian Heavyweight Championship. It was won by Willie Nasio who looked a class above his determined but limited opponent. I reckon Nasio, despite his relative inexperience would have coped easily with either of the headlining heavyweights.

And so to the main event.  Peter ‘the Chief’ Graham from Australia against an American, Julius Long. Forty and thirty-eight years old respectively, it had probably been a while since either had dreamed of holding the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

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Long, at an inch over seven feet tall, had an obvious reach advantage and Graham found it hard to get through to him. One lunge caused a clash of heads opening up a cut on the Australian’s head which a few rounds later was deemed severe enough for the fight to be stopped. The cut was ruled accidental and so it went to the cards. Graham was declared the winner.

I had Graham a point ahead at that stage, as did one of the judges. The other two officials had him four and five rounds in front respectively.

Whilst the majority of the crowd got the result that they had been hoping for, the confusing finish and the scoring that didn’t reflect the closeness of the fight caused a bit of an uproar. Peter Graham calmed things down by offering a re-match but I’d be surprised if it happens. I’ll be especially surprised if it happens in Darwin.

Boxing at Darwin, Sat 17th October 2015, 7pm

December 25, 2015

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One of the difficulties of living and working in Darwin is finding stuff to do on a Saturday. I don’t get home from work until mid-afternoon and at that point I’m keen to pack as much into my one-day weekend as I can.

I wasn’t too fussed about returning to the Tio stadium for some more Aussie Rules football, or as it’s more simply known over here, ‘footy’. However, I’d read in a mid-week newspaper that there was some boxing going on so we thought we’d give that a go instead.

The venue was the Portuguese and Timorese Social Club in nearby Marrala. Apparently Portugal owned East Timor for about three hundred years up until the mid-seventies. Perhaps the social club is for those who hark back to the days of colonial rule. Marrala is a quiet area and $35 in a taxi outside of Darwin. We paid another $25 for tickets on the door.

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As we were there well before the first bout there were plenty of tables and thankfully most of them had fans above them. It’s warm in Darwin, although as people delight in telling me, nowhere near as warm as it’s going to be.

At one end of the building was a bar and unlike at the footy it was selling full strength beers. I asked the barman for a recommendation and he advised a Corona. I hadn’t come all this way to drink Mexican beer though, although in light of my surroundings I might have been tempted by something Timorese. Maybe even a Portuguese Superbok to bring back memories of the Boro’s trip to Lisbon ten years earlier.

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Fortunately the bar also had plenty of Australian beers, all around the 4.7% mark. I can’t remember which ones I tried but they all went down better than the 3.5% selection I’d sampled at the TIO Stadium the previous week.

There were eight fights on the amateur bill, starting with a walkover at 38kg where the ‘winning’ lad still had to put the gloves on and climb into the ring to receive his trophy, up to a 91kg heavyweight fight.

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Each bout was Queensland (in red) v Northern Territories (in blue). All of the boxers were introduced with a brief outline of age, heritage, how long they had been boxing and what their other interests were.

More often than not they professed to spend their spare time fishing and taking it easy. In their position I wouldn’t have been able to resist declaring a liking for something like cracking skulls and embroidery.

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There were some very good bouts, including one between the two female boxers on the bill. Fight of the night though was an unscheduled 3 x 1 minute rounds contest between a four year old and his five year old brother.

The younger of the two would begin each round by charging across the ring and then they’d spend the minute exchanging blows with the familiarity of kids who beat the shit out of each other every day of the week.

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It was all over in good time and by half past nine we were outside in the car park waiting for a taxi. The air was full of flying beetles, similar to the dung beetles in South Africa, but smaller.

Sometimes they made a whirring noise as they flew through the air and at other times a crunching sound whenever we accidentally trod one into the tarmac.

Boxing at Emperors Palace, Saturday 9th August 2014

August 26, 2014

opening shot

This was far more of an arse on than it should have been. The date had been mentioned a few months earlier by the promoter and so I tried to be clever and book a hotel room well in advance. Unfortunately the boxing clashed with a flower-arranging convention or something that was popular enough to sell out half the hotels and double the prices in the rest.

I eventually got fixed up by trying far more accommodation websites than I suspect would be regarded as normal and then by some crafty manipulation of the ticking system managed to obtain two central ringside seats. All good. So what was the problem? Well, one of the scheduled boxers suffered an unexpected defeat in a warm up fight whilst another was rumoured to be somewhat reluctant to take a drugs test. This resulted in the bill being called off and our tickets being refunded. I cancelled the room.

Three days later and the promoter announces a new boxing bill. At the same venue. On the same night. Oh great. So I have go through it all again and secure what was possibly the same hotel room and then another pair of front row tickets.

Emperors Palace is a strange place. Primarily a casino, but with hotels, restaurants and a few shops adding to the options. I’m not too impressed with it as a gambling venue as despite the roulette wheels, black jack and poker tables, it’s much more penny arcade than James Bond. Mind you, that’s exactly what I thought of Las Vegas too.

You'll have to imagine the noise.

You’ll have to imagine the noise.

Like many casinos, they aren’t keen on natural light. Emperors Palace addresses the issue by having a fake sky for a ceiling and then remaining in a permanent state of dusk. As someone who falls asleep far too readily these days I reckon it works pretty well. In fact, I’d install it in houses. There have been times at Emperors Palace where we’ve been eating and drinking into the early hours and it’s felt as if it were no later than teatime.

It's indoors, yet outdoors.

It’s indoors, yet outdoors.

Our seats turned out to be the best we could have bought. We were centrally placed meaning that we didn’t have a cornerpost cameraman blocking the view and we were in Row A. The only downside was that we were behind a section of six rows of complimentary seating occupied by people who spent the whole evening wandering around their section hugging all of the other ‘faces’.

I’d have liked to have been able to wander around and change seats too, that way we wouldn’t have had to put up with the prick sat behind us who amused himself by shouting non-stop ‘advice’ to the boxers or ‘compliments’ to the ring girls. The tedium of hearing the same comments yelled round after round meant that I ended up hoping that every boxer he was supporting got sparked out cold at the earliest opportunity.

The first bout involved a featherweight called Ramagole who had lost the last time we were here. I got the impression that his defeat wasn’t something that the promoter had intended and this time he was given an easier opponent. By the time it reached the third round the other fella had lost interest in being bopped on the nose and so turned his back and quit.

It didn't last much longer.

It didn’t last much longer.

Next up was a lightweight fight between Ashley Dlamini and Thanduxolo Dyani. Dyani had made a promising start to his career by winning his first eleven fights but had then lost his last three. Make that four defeats in a row as Dlamini put him on his arse in the first round causing the ref to wave it off.

This one was over even quicker.

This one was over even quicker.

We then had a contest over eight rounds featuring local cruiserweight Kevin Lerena. You might not recognise the name from Boxing News, but if you’ve been following the Pistorious trial he’s the fella that Oscar accidentally shot in the foot whilst fiddling with a pistol under the table in a restaurant. Marcos Antonii Ahumada caused him fewer problems than the Olympic sprinter had done and Lerena took a one sided decision.

Lerena is the Pirates fan.

Lerena is in the Pirates shorts.

In the fourth fight of the evening the reigning IBO super-bantamweight champion Thabo Sonjica had failed to make the weight. Actually, not only did he fail to make the super-bantamweight limit, he didn’t even manage to make featherweight either, weighing in five pounds heavier than he needed to be.

He forfeited his title, but the fight went ahead anyway and not surprisingly his additional bulk made all the difference against a smaller opponent who, when he wasn’t being smacked in the chops, spent too much time grinning at the people behind us shouting advice.

The added advantage of a ref who appeared to favour the home fighter meant an easy points win for Sonjica who no doubt made straight for a restaurant to scoff a few more pies.

Big fella on the ropes.

Big fella on the ropes.

The main event saw the WBC light-heavyweight silver champion Ryno Liebenburg take on Denis Grachev, a Russian who modelled himself on Ivan Drago, even to the extent of having ‘Drago’s Son’ on his shorts.

At a pre-fight press conference, Ryno, who somewhat oddly chose to ignore the obvious nickname and opt for ‘The Lion’ instead, threatened to knock the Russian’s teeth out. Staying in character, son of Drago limited himself to a curt “You talk too much”.

Liebenburg sustained a nasty cut in the first round, but evened things up soon after. Again, I thought the ref favoured the home fighter. The judges didn’t seem any better and with it being a WBC title fight their scores were revealed after four and eight rounds. Or rather they were announced half-way through the fifth and ninth rounds. How distracting must that be for the boxers? Surely it isn’t beyond the officials to tot up the scores within the minute break between rounds?

Ryno 'the lion'.

I had the fight a lot closer than the 116-112, 117-112 and the laughable 120-108 scores, but the crowd went home happy, whilst the promoter‘s plans for Liebenberg remained on track. And despite it being close to midnight, we were able to head back out into the dusk.

 

Boxing at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg, Saturday 1st March 2014

March 5, 2014

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We should have been at this bill a fortnight ago, but it had been postponed and so we ended up staying the weekend in a ‘resort hotel‘ with nothing more to see an ELO tribute act. The upside of the delay though was that the re-scheduled show was moved to a smaller nine hundred capacity venue and with the tickets having to be re-sold, we managed to get seats in Row A of Block A.

From what I can see, there are a couple of dozen or so boxing promotions a year in South Africa, although cage fighting seems to be more popular. Shame really, as I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to twatting someone in the chops.

With the boxing not starting until the evening, we were free to go for a hike earlier in the day and so we headed to Groenkloof, a nature reserve in Johannesburg. We had been there last year and had a good time despite losing the trail on occasions and having to make our way through the bush.

On this visit we stuck to the path but despite clocking up close to up twelve miles we still didn’t manage to spot the giraffes. How does something the size of a giraffe keep itself hidden? We did have a few close encounters with zebras though and also stumbled across a few different types of antelope.

I think our presence prevented some zebra porn.

I think our presence prevented some zebra porn.

There were six bouts on the card at the Marcellus Theatre, with the first one scheduled to start at 7.30pm. Our Row A seats were pretty good, with only one row of ‘celeb‘ seats between us and the ringside commentators and officials. The venue was so small though that you’d still have had a decent view from the very back rows.

The opening pairing was a featherweight contest between two fellas who were both having their third fight. One of them, Ricardo Hiraman, had won on both of his previous outings whilst the other, Phumudzo Monyai, stepped into the ring with a record of one win and one loss.

A few minutes later and Mr. Monyai was coming to terms with his second career defeat, or at least he would have been if he hadn’t been spark out on the canvas. He spent longer recovering than he had boxing.

When they were both still uptight.

When they were both still uptight.

Next up were a couple of junior flyweights. It was all going well for the house fighter who looked to be well ahead after three rounds only to get knocked over in the fourth. It went to the scorecards after six with Sibusiso Twani’s better later work getting him the nod by a point over Thabang Ramagole on all three judge‘s cards.

The lad with the yellow shorts won.

The lad with the yellow shorts won.

Third fight of the night was at light-welterweight. There’d been a late withdrawal, which was a shame as the bloke who didn’t show had been described in one newspaper as being aged forty-nine. Maybe he’d been gardening and stiffened up.  I’ve no idea how old his replacement, Jeff Otimbio, was but he was a good eight hundred places in the world rankings below the fella he was fighting, Adam De Moor.

A quick look at De Moor’s record suggests that he is usually very carefully matched, with the majority of his opponents having far more defeats than wins, at least in their recent fights if not in their career overall. The difference in class told and Otimbio was put down twice in an easy points win for De Moor.

Another easy win for Adam De Moor.

Another easy win for Adam De Moor.

Next up was the first of the evening’s title fights. Sort of. It was a light-heavyweight bout for the vacant WBC Silver International belt. The what? I had a check online and the International title is for boxers ranked between 10 and 30 by the WBC. As the two contenders were ranked 52 and 82 respectively by Boxrec, it seemed that the WBC weren’t too fussy as to who gets a place in their top thirty.

And the Silver part of the title? That’s because it’s an interim title apparently, although one that can be defended and that doesn’t entitle the holder to be upgraded to proper International Champion. It was just as well really as the Gold International Championship was being contested on the same bill later that evening.

So, it’s as contrived a title as anything the WBC has ever come up with, perhaps with the exception of their ‘Diamond belt’ which, for an appropriate sanctioning fee, can be contested whenever a couple of ‘big name’ boxers temporarily without titles feel the need for one of them to take a prize home at the end of the fight.

Johnny Muller makes his entrance.

Johnny Muller makes his entrance.

Local boy Johnny Muller had been matched against Namibian Wilberforce Shihepo for the not so prestigious title. Mr Shihepo was the higher ranked of the pair at 52 in the world and, somewhat less gloriously, second rated of the only two light-heavyweights in his own country. I imagine that with just the two boxers competing in the light-heavyweight division then the domestic title fights in Namibia will get a bit stale after a while.

The main news story in the week leading up to the fight had been speculation as to whether or not the Namibian would make the weight. Apparently with six days to go he had still been thirteen pounds over the twelve and a half stone limit. That takes some doing when you consider that his last fight was at super-middleweight.

Muller v Shihepo

Muller v Shihepo

Johnny Muller has a reputation as a bit of a brawler. He has rarely fought outside of Emperors Palace and his style had attracted in a fair few fans. Shihepo wasn’t going to be intimidated though and he gave as good as he got with both boxers wrestling each other to the floor at times whilst neither was too careful where he put his head.

The WBC announce the scores after four and eight rounds, with Shihepo holding the early advantage before Muller edged ahead at the two-thirds stage. In the end Muller took a split decision. I thought Shihepo was marginally the better fighter but I couldn’t have disputed the decision whichever way it had gone.

Still Muller and Shihepo

Still Muller and Shihepo

Top of the bill was a WBA/IBO minimum weight fight between champion Hekkie Budler of South Africa and the Columbian challenger Karluis Diaz. Minimum weight is seven stone. Seven stone! It was lucky that Budler had plenty of tattoos or it would have looked like a couple of nine year olds knocking hell out of each other for the amusement of the watching grown-ups.

We had Budler’s future Mother-in-Law sat behind us proudly mentioning the family connection at every opportunity and screaming advice to her daughter’s fiancée. She was fairly new to boxing and her instructions to “Give him an upperhand” probably didn’t help the fella much.

I'm heavier than the pair of them put together. Lots heavier actually.

I’m heavier than the pair of them put together. Lots heavier actually.

I’d noticed that one of the judges was Dave Parris. Oddly, this was the only fight that he was officiating in, which seemed a bit of a waste of such an experienced judge. As it turned out he’d flown in from the UK for nothing as Hekkie Budler despatched his opponent in the opening round before Mr. Parris had needed to hand in any score whatsoever.

The speedy conclusion meant that Hekkie’s Mother-in-law-to-be could clear off to check out hats and frocks for the big day, leaving us to watch the final bout in peace.

I doubt he'll have that haircut at the wedding.

I doubt he’ll have that haircut at the wedding.

The last fight of the night featured Joey Vegas, a Ugandan currently living in Tottenham, against unbeaten local Ryno Liebenberg for the WBC Gold International Light-Heavyweight belt. Vegas (I don’t think that it was his real name) had a couple of dozen supporters in the crowd, waving what I presumed was the Ugandan flag rather than one representing Tottenham.

Or is that a cockerel on it? Maybe it is Tottenham.

Or is that a cockerel on it? Maybe it is Tottenham.

As you might have expected, Ryno Liebenburg had a lot more supporters, with many of them wearing official tee-shirts. They were quickly rewarded with another win for the South African as he put Vegas on the canvas twice before stopping him in the opening round.

Vegas looking good at this stage.

Vegas looking good at this stage.

I’d like to think that Joey Vegas and Dave Parris got to sit next to each other on the flight back to London so that they could marvel at travelling all of that distance for less than three minutes work each.

Overall, it was a decent bill with maybe just the one fight that wasn’t well-matched. I was particularly impressed by the way in which the timings of the bouts weren’t dictated by broadcasting requirements. As soon as one fight finished the next pair of boxers were lining up ready to go. It doesn’t always work like that in the UK where I’ve often had to wait an hour or so between fights just to suit the telly timings. So, all in all, a good evening.