How I started Ladies’ Day at Fred Brophy’s boxing tent
It’s not hard to get a fight in Fred Brophy’s boxing tent – the last travelling tent left in Australia, or the world. It just gets hard when you get your fight. I wanted a fight.
I saw Brophy first at the Birdsville Races in 2008 but I knew about the tent – the round or two for a pound or two – to borrow a line from the other great boxing tent man Jimmy Sharman.
I talked about wanting a fight in the tent before heading up to Mt Isa for the rodeo, from the comfort of inner city Melbourne. No one believed me. I’m a girl and I’ve never even done a boxing class.
When I saw the tent in the Isa, in the fair ground next to the rodeo, I got excited. One of his handlers was hanging around the tent getting ready for the night – he was as hard man but not a hard man to remember. I saw him later that day at the rodeo and let him know I wanted a fight that night.
“You look like a rather refined lady,” was his response.
He had no idea.
But when I got to the tent that night and Brophy and the fighters were on the platform in front of the tent, the drums had sounded and the bells had rung. Brophy called out “I understand there’s a lady here who wants a fight to night”.
That was me.
I was at the front. I waved my hand, jumped up and down and the blokes nearby said “that’s her”.
Things don’t get much better than this.
He picked me. He picked me! It was like the line-up for school sports teams – you got to get picked.
And then the matching, the fighter.
A big butch girl – 120kg, the Cracow Mauler. She was a whole lot bigger than me. And even at this stage it was a cert - his girl knows how to fight.
That’s when I started shaking, a bit bigger than a tremor. But I was up for it.
I got up on to the platform, with some difficulty due to shaking legs and a slightly tight skirt but the crowd was behind me and they were applauding. They were applauding me! That never happened at YCW Netball club.
With its Four X Gold flags flying, a perfect sponsorship, Brophy’s tent is the place to go when you’re at the best events in the bush – Birdsville races, Mt Isa rodeo, a good bush show, muster or a camp draft.
Fred Brophy bangs a drum and a troupe fighter sounds a bell from the platform calling all comers.
He has eight travelling fighters and most have had a professional bout or two. They line up against the mural on the tent - images of fighters like Jeff Fenech and Lester Eillis who have had a go on the dirty canvas square with the bush crowd cheering from crappy plastic primary school seats.
With the fighters in their red satin robes and gloves it’s like a hark back to TV Ringside but all in colour.
When Fred calls for fighters to challenge his troupe everyone knows that this is a no head gear, no mouthguard fight. He’s banned in most states and probably doesn’t operate anywhere south of the Bundaberg line.
Fashion means everything to me. So I’ll intercede here with a fashion overview – pearl earrings, a new pink checked cowgirl shirt with pearl finished press studs, an RM denim skirt (just above the knee) and a pair of gorgeous Mexican cowboy boots in mottled brown snakeskin.
Just the thing to fight in. It didn’t matter what the Mauler did, I was going to look a whole lot better than her – she wasn’t wearing makeup and was fighting in board shorts. Her hair was a short back and sides and the overall look some might find a bit gender indeterminate. Lovely all the same
So the match ups were made. Tough black fellas from the bush made up the majority, hard and tough and totally ready.
We got a run down – Marquis of Queensberry, but if you use feet, feet will be used back.
Match three and my face is covered in Vaseline and I’m ready to go. Just one small thing.
I don’t know how to fight.
I got a couple of tips from the fighter next in the queue – he’d obviously broken his nose countless times so I felt confident his advice would be good .....
“Keep your hands up and stay in line with the fighter”.
I got knocked to the floor first blow.
Between the eyes and straight to the canvas. That’s not where I wanted to be so I go straight back up and kept my hands up too.
And I smiled – I thought it was my only weapon but I also found the whole thing strangely entertaining. The feel of the glove hitting hard on my face was not what I expected – strength with padding, hard but sweet .
I made the first two minute round – duck and weave, and of course the one big bang.
There’s probably no greater thing than surviving a round and getting to the corner where the corner man sprayed my mouth with dirty water from an ancient householder cleaning agent bottle while another fanned me with the dirtiest towel in Christendom.
“You’re doing alright love, just keep your hands up”.
But you’ve got to keep tidy so I had him check my lipstick – I think it was new to him.
So back in, lipstick vaguely intact and there was the Mauler.
She could fight and she got serious. Big strong uppercut under my left cheekbone, a strong hit to my left eye.
But I survived the round.
And back to the corner.
More dirty water, more dirty towels and a cheering crazy crowd all on my side.
Round three gets a bit blurry. I’m spinning. I don’t know right from left. I am scarcely landing a blow but I’m on my feet. I’m still fighting in the last boxing tent in the world.
And then the bell.
I can’t believe I’ve made it.
I did land a couple of blows, I’m sure the Mauler was laughing. I lost but I made it.
But I survived three rounds in the last boxing tent left in the world. Fred Brophy’s boxing tent. Soon to be banned across Australia and I reckon I’ll be the last woman in Australia to ever get a fight.
I broke my left cheek bone which is still sore today and I can feel the hit when I touch it; I had a bruise on the left of my left eye; a bruise on my upper right cheek bone, and I was concussed (in a minor way) for around three days after. But it was all worth it.
Not bad for a woman whose abiding interests are fashion, cooking and the home. And one who’s never had a fight apart from the domestic kind.
To round out 2009 I entered Fashions on the Field on Derby Day at Flemington showcasing a fetching outfit made up of black silk georgette and satin dress – straight and to the knee – with a pearl encrusted neck piece, a cute black napa leather bolero with a frill and stunning hat and shoes to match.
Once again, no cigar.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…