Night at the Fights
In the playground if two boys get scrapping everyone stops to watch. The attraction of boxing is simple. Basic. And so is Bethnal Green, way off my paths most trodden where the badlands of the East End begin. York Hall has been hosting low life non championship boxing forever. Here the hopefuls meet the stiffs. The boys with dreams box the men with brain damage. And even at £30 the cheapest seat the 1000 seater hall and balcony are full.
Bouncers are everywhere. Testosterone fills the air,tight leather jackets, shaved heads, tattoos and deep chuckles. Whole families come to cheer on their light footed lads, girls come to scream for their boy friends, mums for their sons. But most of all it’s the mates from the pubs. With 12 four and six round contests there are a lot of blood related and blood thirsty fans.
Each bout has a certain formality. The less desired one is announced comes into the ring. And then the local boy gets his call ,lights flash, music blares and the hero with a posse of minders makes his entrance. But it doesn’t always go to script. But there are many who as we old timers say “couldn’t lick a stamp, beat a carpet let alone hit a note.
First up two seven stone flies. In shuffles the less fancied Bulgarian with 17 fights to his name. The lights flash and the boyo from Belfast appears. The best from Bulgaria cant fight and doesn’t, the boyo from Belfast can dance but cant punch. The ref has to tell them to get on with it. Bulgar goes down five times in four rounds, boyo wins.
In comes Ian from Brighton and Scott from Essex. Ian has had 29 fights and fancied Scott three. Classic stiff versus hopeful both at 12 stone plus. What a scrap. Ian the more aggressive Scott the harder puncher. They really go to work. This may not be Las Vegas but this is violence and cajones, the crowd love it. In between rounds the leggy blondes wiggle and smirk. What rears. The fight goes the distance and the less fancied boxer gets the nod. His lady waits and no warner embrace ringside is given,
Next it’s the fancied Pole and Mick from Kent both at around 10 stone. Like most of the fighters both have impressive body tattoos. The Pole has an outstretched eagle on his back which goes with his Cherokee haircut. Behind me are his countrymen are giving him support. Its on.From the bell he is all over the Brighton lad. He closes in, Mick in a corner hits back with a vicious one two, Bingo. The Pole is axed. He doesn’t move for two minutes, the doctors are all over him. The crowd goes quiet. There is relief and cheers when he gets to his feet.
Next its Mathew from Swansea-23 bouts against Ashley from Leyton in only his second . Mathew despite having the start of a flabby middle on his 11 stone puts up good resistance for a stiff but goes down to the man with a future. Then its a super bantam weight where the stiff from Newport doesn’t come out in the second to face the hero from Hackney.
Then its the heavyweights. There are no cowherds in the ring so you shouldn’t laugh. But here was 15 stone of lard from Croatia facing seventeen stone and three inches taller from Sheffield. One can hardly move the other lurches like a Frankenstein monster. I counted 18 hits from the bigger man until the Croatian charged bull like into a clinch. And that how the bout went. By then I had had enough, had seen the bouncers deal with a drunk brother of a losing fighter and crossed the road to the Denmark Arms.
Drinking in E2 is not the same as in SW15. But I got chatting to a couple of lads who were going over in a minute to see their mate have his first professional bout. “He’s a good boxer and he has had 20 amateur bouts,this is his chance” they say. Good luck. Will he be a contender or the other guy. Most stiffs started out as promising, most bums once had dreams. Even Marlon Brando claimed to be a Contender and what a bum he was.