Bruised then and now

More than ten years ago when the first edition of ‘Bruising’ was published I did this interview with James Griffin for the ABC’s books and literature program The Last Word.

That was in the days when I was still willing to put up with having long hair. And I even organised to have a shiner just for the occasion! It was filmed in our old flat in Elwood and  at the Underworld Gym in the city, with Sam holding the pads.

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Winning the battle of wills

‘Dirty’ Diana Prazak, a relative newcomer to boxing, battled, not just the seasoned Canadian world champion Lindsay Garbatt, but waves of self doubt as she entered the ring last night (Saturday September 24) to fight and win the Women’s International Boxing Association super-featherweight world championship belt in front of a home crowd in Melbourne, Australia.

Fighting like girls. Hernandez with Mick Hargreaves, Diana Prazak and team.

Prazak had a lot of pressure riding her into the ring. It would be the first time an Australian woman would fight the reigning champion for the belt. She was in front of a hyped hometown crowd. She was undefeated as an amateur and had only one loss as a pro, a baptism of fire against Gladiator Sarah ‘Missy’ Howett.

And Garbatt, a security guard and former body builder, has a name on the world stage, battling from an underdog position to champ in her four-year pro career, facing some tough competition – including Jeannine Garside and Jelena Mrdjenovich – while Prazak had been swimming in a more modest pool of women, most recently beating NZ kickboxer Bronwyn Wylie at the same venue.

'Dirty' Di digs to the body. Pictures. Werner Kalin.

There were many unanswered questions floating in her head before the fight. Garbatt was a major step up for Prazak, who like Melissa Hernandez, the US multiple world champ hired to help her prepare, came to boxing initially only to shed some weight. Both women last night showed that a certain determination is transferrable with Hernandez making quick work of the Kiwi journey-woman Christina Tai with a fourth round TKO in their lightweight bout and Prazak forcing Grabatt to concede before the start of the tenth and final round, the doctor stopping the fight because she could no longer see out of a swollen left eye. Relief and jubilation combined to finally answer some of those doubts that had earlier plagued her.

Melissa 'Hurricane' Hernandez and Christina Tai.

The fight brought the Australian’s record to 9-1 while Garbatt dropped to 7-4 and one draw against Melissa Hernandez, who also had a points loss to Garbatt in 2010.

Before the stoppage the judges had the fight even and Garbatt certainly had the edge in the early rounds when nerves and uncertainty saw Prazak hit the canvas in a flash knockdown that looked to be part slip. From that point on Prazak had a sense of urgency about her that didn’t so much shock the visitor, since she is a solid fighter who has been in with the best. But it did, finally wear her down. Diana returned to her corner after each round as if every second of the two minutes had been the fight of her life and she had held nothing back. She was up against a boxer with more skill and experience, also known for her heart and strength and she had brought her A-game downunder.

Prazak has been repeatedly labelled the mini Jeff Fenech, but it would be more appropriate to call her the female Ricky Hatton because she has the same bullying persona in the ring and the same willingness to take some punishment to give it.

Garbatt shows what she's got.

She has a chin like bitumen and a never quit attitude. With Hernandez here in camp with her for four weeks, Prazak knew that Garbatt would be fit, strong and just as determined and that her best chance was to win the battle of wills. And that she did. The the All Star Receptions crowd in Altona certainly got their money’s worth in what many were describing as the fight of the year including the Women’s International Boxing Associations president Ryan Wissow, here from his home in Cooper City, Florida to supervise the bout. Without doubt, Prazak made her transition from local boxer to a fighter to be reckoned with on the world stage. Despite all her doubts and uncertainties going in, she defied the odds and her star shone bright.

The two female bouts, which were part of the Australian Fight Series staged by Adam Wilcock, really brought women’s boxing home to Australia. Melissa Hernandez launched her charm campaign from the walk in, shimmying to Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ’till You Get Enough’ and entertaining the crowd with all her usual ring tics and unique dynamism. The little Puerto Rican larrakin fit right in and has clearly been worth the Prazak camp’s investment. The former New Yorker, now based in Miami, made some firm friends downunder, not least the new WIBA super-featherweight champion of the world, ‘Dirty’ Di Prazak.

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He ain’t heavy…well, actually he is

They call him Blimp, although his real name is Delen Parsley. Gleason’s regulars will know him for his operatic voice projection, glinting gold teeth that flash every time he breaks into a smile and, well, his enormous size. The dude is BIG. I’m sayin’.

I’d heard that he was one of the best trainers in the gym and I’d seen him work with Melissa Hernandez and Vivian Harris – both great technical boxers with their own individual flair. Melissa Hernandez has always been one of my favorites for her variety of creative and audacious moves and she has always spoken highly of Blimp when she was in New York. I enjoyed seeing the two of them sitting together eating lunch, always a funny banter going between them. I liked the contrast in their size and thought of them as the quintessential odd couple. But this time I felt like I was part of an odd couple myself, I was so dwarfed by the man it was surreal. I felt like another one of New York’s many chihuahuas. At one stage, while shouting at me he stopped and asked, ‘Am I scaring you?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘because I know you. But normally yes, I would be scared if a 400lb black man was screaming at me like that.’

Playing with the big boys. Me and Blimp.

I joined forces with Blimp because I only get to visit Gleason’s for a few weeks here and there, so I have started to make a point of sampling a different trainer each time. And sometimes just being in the gym, observing the myriad of styles from the very best in the business to some that are impossible to fathom, gives me ideas and moves to follow up on both as a boxer and a teacher. You can see quite well what works and what doesn’t.

Alicia Ashley was the one who guided me through my initial comeback as a masters boxer from the time I met her in 2007 until 2009. It came after a seven year lay-off and she got my punches flowing a little better. Alicia is great to talk to about boxing, especially in situ,  because she understands the nuances of pace and timing and strategy very well and she communicates clearly. Sometimes with a slap. But I’d rather be slapped by her in the corner than in the ring.  I hate sparring her, for obvious reasons. She’s a WBC world champion southpaw whose hard to hit and counters like a rattle snake. But I’d rather talk to her or watch her spar someone else than get in the ring with her myself, she makes me tense and mostly I swipe the air as she moves in her unique and mesmerizing way. Luckily I had the pleasure of seeing that at Book Court last week in Brooklyn when she sparred four rounds in the store with Camille Currie. The most incredible event ever witnessed in that book shop, I was assured by the staff, who were totally blown away. And we’re hoping to do it all again on a grander scale, so the non-boxing world can see up close what this is all about. Look out for some more literary boxing in New York next year.

Text book boxing. Camille Currie (left) and Alicia 'Slick' Ashley spar at Book Court.

Back at Gleason’s I was having corrective surgery on my stance from a man who had the resolve to watch my every move. I’ve known for a while that I lean too much and don’t bring my back foot up when I jab. I’ve known that I can move my head and slip pretty well, but often I don’t counter quickly enough. I make them miss, but I don’t make them pay as much as I could. But without a trainer watching me all the time these are difficult faults to correct. I can see them in others but I can only really video myself and try to fix it next time.

It was like a luxury having this very big man bearing down on me, shouting with his booming voice that cuts through the clatter – ‘Don’t lean!’, ‘Pivot’, Relax!’, ‘Take your time’, ‘Urgh, that was UGLY,’ ‘Nice’, ‘Beautful,’, ‘There you go’, ‘Why you lean!!!!???”Bring that back foot up, don’t be lazy,’ (my favorite), and ‘Punch while you’re down there, baby’. Some people like five star hotels and expensive dinners when they travel, but give me a 400lb black man shouting at me while I box and I’m happy, especially when I feel the adjustments starting to take effect.

So what is the Blimp story? I’ve been coming and going from New York for more than four years and I never really knew that much about the man. So I sat down and asked some questions. He’s been in boxing for more than 30 years and had his first fight a week after he started training and KO’d the heavyweight champ at a smoker in a gym in Park Slope when he was 17 years old. He’s a bit of a hard task master so I asked him if he was a disciplined boxer in his day and he said, ‘No, because it was easy for me.’

Things I didn’t know about Blimp were that he was both a grandfather and about to become a father at the age of 50. He spent three weeks sparring Mike Tyson and lasted longer than any other sparring partner even though Tyson wore ten ounce gloves and Blimp wore 18’s. He was born in South Carolina. He learned to box in the streets of Brownsville from ex-cons who picked up skills on the inside. He honed them doing what they call ‘slap boxing’ or ‘chest boxing’ which was something young men did when they hung around the streets, which just goes to show that boredom is the mother of invention. Skills are being lost, says Blimp, because everyone’s too busy texting. He might have a point. There’s not enough boredom in young lives these days.

The best thing that Blimp said to me was ‘You can fight. You do some great moves. But you gotta make them pay!’

So that’s my mission from now on. Make them pay. It’s all in the stance.

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Making history

It’s going to be a pretty strange day in New York on Sunday. But if you feel like an antidote to the heaviness of reliving 9/11, it might be a good time to come to Book Court in Brooklyn to see what is turning into a celebration of women’s boxing, a multi-media extravaganza that will see two of the city’s “slickest chicks” showing off some of their marvelous boxing moves when they make history boxing in a book store.

Alicia Ashley (left) and Camille Currie will be the main event on a night that will include readings from me, Binnie Klein and a section of the film Golden Gloves by Leyla Leidecker.

 

The action starts at 7pm at Book Court in Court Street Brooklyn. Don’t miss it!

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Sex and violence

Tonight (Thursday September 8) at the Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village in New York I’ll be appearing with Francis Levy, somewhat of a New York legend, and the author of Seven Days in Rio, his latest novel, which somehow mixes sex tourism with psychotherapy. The book has had some rave reviews and I can’t wait to see Francis in action.

‘This book will make you put it down because you’re laughing so hard and then pick it up and be astonished at the places Frank Levy will take you, ‘ says one enthusiastic reader on Amazon.com.

Levy is also the author of Erotomania: A Romance, a Queerty.com Top 10 Book of 2008 and an Inland Empire Weekly Standout Book of 2008. His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe New RepublicThe Village Voice, and many others.

So you could say it’s a pretty hard act to follow. But actually I’m going first, reading from The Sweetest Thing. Between us we’ll have the world post popular topics, sex and violence, pretty well covered. So don’t miss it.

The event is kicking off at 6.15pm. Sidewalk Cafe is at 94 Avenue A in the East Village and it is totally free. But bring cash to buy author signed copies of our books.

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Stranger than fiction

My feet have hardly touched the ground here in the United States and already I have tales to tell.

That’s why this country is the most glorious hunting ground for writers of non-fiction. Although I have written short stories and made several attempts at writing a novel, I always gravitate back to the real. And here in America, the real is so hard to resist.

As David Sheilds says in Reality Hunger; “The American writer has his hands full, trying to understand and then describe and then make credible much of the American reality. It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one’s own meager imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents, and the culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy of any novelist.’

And ain’t it the truth!

I arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning, technically two hours before my departure time in Melbourne, which already put me in a kind of twilight zone. Fourteen hours in a plane and suddenly it’s summer and I’m in Hollywood peak hour morning traffic. I make my way straight to Vine Street to check in to the Vagabond Inn, right next door to the Wild Card gym. After sleeping for a couple of hours I go have  some lunch at The Muse cafe on Santa Monica Blvd and then to the gym.

Is it me or Ellen? Either way, she's cute.

On my way, a homeless woman sitting on the pavement, interrupts her mad rant to tell me I look like Ellen de Generes, ‘Did anybody ever tell you that?’ When I start my workout a guy on the treadmill says, ‘Did anyone ever tell you you look like Ellen de Generes. She’s cute.’

‘Yeah,’ I say, ‘She is cute!’ I say.

Everything feels slow. I feel like I’m under water. I see many of the a same faces from my previous visit which is now almost 18 months ago when I had my last session with Lucia Rijker on my way back from the fiasco that was the Holly Holm v Melissa Hernandez fight in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I shadow box, hit the bag, shadow box again and then spend some time doing some crunches and push ups near the second ring. I notice some women getting gloved up, one who looks a little bit like Ronica Jeffrey from New York. Suddenly Shane asks me if I’m sparring the girls.

‘I don’t think so,’ I say innocently, ‘I don’t even know them.’

‘What does that even mean?!!’ he barked back at me, ‘Forget it,’ he said waving away any attempt I made to explain.

But when I got talking to the girls I discovered that one of them was an East Coast chick called Terri who used to train with Don Saxby at Gleason’s. Boxing is such a small world.

Twenty four hours later I landed in Decatur Georgia, back in the Terri Moss reality show that I left in April. This time she’s organizing another Atlanta Corporate Fight Night so it’s like nothing has changed since the last time. Terri is just as funny and just as entertaining as ever. She’s already had be doubled over with tears streaming from my eyes with her gym stories.

This Saturday I’m due to appear at the Decatur Book Festival.

Then on Monday it’s off to New York where I’ll be doing a couple of gigs including a women’s boxing extravaganza at Book Court in Brooklyn.

Boxing Smackdown at BookCourt

More on those events soon.

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My story in yesterday’s Sunday Age

The boxing book tour

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Striking out for Rijker

The one and only Lucia Rijker.

Without Lucia Rijker, women’s boxing wouldn’t be what it is today. Never mind Christy Martin and her toughness and being signed by Don King and on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I’m not talking about the crossover power of  Laila Ali and her incredible pedigree and athleticism. There is really only one female who has had the kind of impact on the sport that makes her worthy of being the first woman fighter to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I’m not talking now about being famous or raising the profile. I’m talking about something that moves people more profoundly than that, something that inspires them at a much deeper level.

All over the world it will be Lucia Rijker’s name mentioned in sentences that also include the words ‘inspiration’ and ‘role model’.

I can remember the first time I saw footage of her and feeling chills up my spine. Every fibre in my being was excited by what I saw. It made me want to reach those heights too, to be able to move with such efficiency and precision, to be so graceful and to turn that beauty into something lethal. Wow! I thought not just about myself but about my entire gender. Lucia was evidence. We CAN do this and we all have the potential to be amazing. And we can do it with our womanhood in tact as well, we don’t need to trade it off to be strong. It looked to me like the most definitive statement about modern femininity. Powerful and elegant. Who wouldn’t want to be like that?

And I’m not the only person who thinks all this ads up to something significant. New York boxing trainer Mark A Jones has decided to launch a letter-writing campaign to International Boxing Hall Of Fame to have Lucia inducted. And I would urge everyone to follow his lead.

When I asked him why he decided to start it, he said that when he began training women boxers a few years ago he decided to do some research. He came across Katya Bankowsky’s extraordinary film Shadow Boxers which features Rijker and the first women to compete in the New York Golden Gloves.

‘I came away overwhelmingly impressed with the depth of Lucia as a person. Her boxing ability, I had earlier determined from my study of the history of women’s boxing, to be second-to-none,’ Mark said. ‘She was the most complete female boxer worthy of induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The first inductee will open the doors for other women to be inducted in the future; it was important to select the right boxer. I didn’t want to overwhelm those responsible for constructing the ballot, so choosing only one female boxer was basically a must.’

Over the past few years, during Hall of Fame weekends which are near his house in Utica in upstate New York, Mark says he had chatted with voters for the World Boxing Hall of Fame, The International Boxing Hall of Fame, fighters that have been inducted, press-people, professional boxing trainers, anyone that would listen.

‘They nearly all believe that she was the best female boxer of all-time and deserved induction.’

A few months ago he attended the ceremony where both Mike Tyson and Sylvester Stallone were inducted.

‘I spoke with the Director of the IBHOF and discovered that a boxer can be added to the ballot if there is a desire from the public to have the boxer placed on the ballot for consideration by the voters. I think that her induction, in concert with the 2012 Olympics, will assist in moving women’s boxing forward and out of the niche following it currently maintains. The door must be opened first.’

Send cards and letters asking for the induction to:

IBHOF
1 Hall of fame Drive
Canastota, NY 13032
FAX: 315-697-5356.

I have included a short extract of a chapter in The Sweetest Thing about my time time meeting and training with Lucia. It’s called ‘The Human Animal’.

‘Luckily for me, when I finally met the most dangerous woman on the planet, her fighting days were over. I’d been hoping to simply run into Lucia Rijker at the Wild Card gym, but ultimately I had to engineer a meeting. Via e-mail we had agreed to a week of one-on-one training sessions at the LA gym in October 2009.

‘I arrived early for our first meeting and began skipping rope to warm up. I didn’t know what I was in for, but I was expecting something tough. I thought of those fierce arched brows I’d seen on YouTube and in documentaries, the deep concentration in her eyes, and the ruthless destruction that she had dished out in a lifetime of fighting. Over the years I had watched everything I could get my hands on. I’d watched Shadow Boxers countless times and, more recently, clips of some of her fights that had been uploaded. Even as the talent pool grew, Lucia continued to stand out. I was apprehensive, bracing myself for a hard week.

‘But the person who greeted me had an open and trusting expression, wide-set brown eyes, and distinctive, full lips that smiled warmly. I had just finished wrapping my hands when I saw, first, tight curls escaping from beneath a cap, then those unmistakable high, broad cheekbones, features she had inherited from her Surinamese father and Dutch mother. As I moved toward her, I was struck immediately by her easy geniality. I had been expecting someone intimidating, aloof, and a little stern. I think that at one time or another she had been all those things and more—but not anymore. The hand that had delivered fourteen knockouts extended toward me in friendship.’

To read more, you’ll have to buy the book.

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Show me the way

Ever since I started boxing back in the mid 1990s, people have said that women make better students. And while it sounds good at first, it’s a bit of a double edged sword. I always wondered if it was because women, unlike a lot of men, are better at doing what they’re told, something male trainers call ‘listening’.

When a boxer loses a fight often the trainer will say, ‘Well, he didn’t listen’, which is boxing trainer talk for, ‘He didn’t do what I told him.’ Maybe the fighter might think to himself quietly, ‘Well, that’s because the advice was bad.’ But he’d never say it out loud because obedience is necessary for the whole relationship to function. Is that why women are easier to teach? Are they more obedient? Do they more easily fall into the role of compliant, accommodating protege?It’s always a curly question to me. Add to it the myth that men somehow know more about fighting because that’s what men do then the whole picture is a little unsettling. If a man is telling you how to fight you better not argue, right? What do women know? Well, a lot more than they used to, is the answer.

Listen and learn: me with Alicia Ashley in New York in April.

Alicia Ashley, my ‘Slick’ friend in New York whom I have spent many hours obeying and listening to, likes to say that women are more ‘trainable’ than men, more concerned with proper technique. And that is certainly her forte as a fighter and an instructor. She knows a lot. And people listen to Alicia because she has a commanding presence and a no-nonsense attitude. But I’ve always been interested in the issues confronting the female trainer, especially when it’s men they are training.

When men are the ones ‘obeying’ the women in the trainer-boxer dynamic,  do things change? When women are leading them through the complex jungle of movement and machismo that is The Sweet Science, what happens? Must men battle with some impossible riddle, that if they do what a women tells them to, does that say that they might be too weak to fight another man in the ring?

Now that I’ve started training other people, everyone assumes that I focus mostly on women. But actually, I have just as many, if not more men, that I train. And lately I’ve found myself unpacking the dynamics of the left hook and the straight right to quite a few attentive male ears. Usually they are younger, stronger and sometimes a lot bigger than I am. I have to explain, watch, comment, adjust and talk. And much to my surprise, they all seem to  ‘listen’ to me. These guys are not ‘fighters’ necessarily but modern men from the real world where listening to women is a little more acceptable and trying to assume the dominant role isn’t the standard any more.

One of my most enthusiastic and dedicated students has also had male trainers in the past and he tells me he doesn’t notice any difference.

I’ve had contact with plenty of women trainers, too, so I have my role models and mentors, more than most, I imagine since I have essentially gone in search of them. And I gravitate towards females in the sport because, well, once there were none and because it seems to me that the women who have been fighters and are now trainers know what we are capable of while men might under-estimate female potential.

Sharp eyes. Bonnie Canino, USA national coach and former world champ.

In my travels I’ve taken corner advice from Bonnie Canino who hits harder than most men, Terri Moss, who is wraps her advice up in good humour and respect, Alicia Ashley who even describes herself as bossy and Melissa Hernandez a vocal ringside coach and the greatest female boxer of all time, Lucia Rijker. If I could be a fraction of any of them I’d be thrilled.

The Boss: Terri Moss gives me post fight feedback in Atlanta.

Tough love. Belinda Laracuente coaches her young charges at Mendez Gym.

Thinking about them now makes me wonder if it might even be possible that women actually make better trainers because not only are they better listeners but also better communicators. And certainly this has been a distinguishing feature of each of those I have mentioned. Lucia Rijker was the greatest surprise for her keen perception and sensitivity. I didn’t expect it from such a devastating and, let’s face it, brutal, competitor.

The danger zone. Learning from the legendary Lucia Rijker.

As each generation of female fighters ages, more female trainers will enter the mix and it will be interesting to see what springs fourth in the ring, what male and female fighters trained by women will look like.

Serious work. Ann Wolfe and James Kirkland.

Already the legendary Ann Wolfe has crossed the line with her male boxer, one-time junior middleweight contender James Kirkland. This brought her more attention and respect from the boxing brotherhood than Bonnie Canino got for training Ada Velez or Belinda Laracuente had for mentoring Melissa Hernandez or even Lucia Rijker got for being in the corner for the French champion Myriam Lamare when she fought Holly Holm. It’s certainly a space to watch. Maybe the growing number of female trainers won’t be taken seriously until they have a male heavyweight champion in their camp. And I’m looking forward to the day. Once a heavyweight starts listening, they all will.

One of the best authorities on boxing technique is a woman called Christy Halbert. I met Christy at the AIBA Women’s World Championships in Barbados in 2010. She was there with the USA national team. When I got home I bought her book ‘The Ultimate Boxer’ keen to read what this well-respected and quietly spoken boxing coach and official had to say.

It’s become like a bible to me, something I can open at random and become immediately absorbed, wanting to try out the drills and the strategies and the combinations. I had it with me in the gym recently and one of the male trainers sneered at the idea that fighting could be explained in a book. He’s one of those guys who talks the talk and talks and talks and talks. Thankfully he was too dyslexic to see that not only was it a book about boxing, but it was written by a woman.  Halbert, a US national team coach, the highest level of accreditation, is also head of the USA Boxing women’s task force as well as being a sociologist in which she has a PhD. She’s not some dude in the gym who thinks he knows it all. The Ultimate Boxer is written with clarity and thought offering a chapter on the fundamentals and skill building that covers footwork, basic punches and drills. It has a section on conditioning listing the muscle groups used for boxing as well as a section onwinning bouts and strategy.

The book expands into the complexities of the game by breaking down tactics, discussing angles, variations on fundamentals, rhythm and tempo and tips on sparring. There is a list of different styles, for example the boxer, the croucher, the slugger and dealing with either shorter or taller opponents. It even addresses the issues of head trauma in boxing. The dude in the gym would know only a fraction of what is contained in the book and wouldn’t even be aware of what he doesn’t know, that’s the tragedy.

Boxing is both simple and complex. Hit and don’t get hit. It’s just that it takes lifetime of repetitive practice and painful error to get it. And once you’ve got it, there is an obligation to pass it on and the female champions are doing just that. So you’d better start listening!

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Toddlers with ticker


Controversy hit the tabloids this past week over little girls fighting. It took me back to the early days when I competed in my first AABL national championships on Queensland’s Gold Coast in 1998 at the Southport RSL.

Not only was there an uproar because of females fighting, (about 20 weighed in for the tournament) but some of them were technically children. Despite that, the officials still made the 12 and 14 year old girls undertake pregnancy tests before they competed. Too young to menstruate and certainly unable legally to even have sex, but it was an anxious time for the male boxing establishment, breasts and biology and the idea that women were fragile, helpless little things, all jumbled together. I remember the 12 year old girls fighting with oversized breast protectors that made them look like midget porn stars. And the media raised the stakes, as always, getting mileage out of the twin shock of women and children fighting in front of alcohol-guzzling men. Oh the horror! And the AMA, again was happy to overplay the risks as if all these little tykes would end up dribbling into their play lunch in a matter of days.

And more than 12 years later we are, seemingly, right back where we started, with Angie and John Wayne Parr’s daughter Jasmine making her Muay Thai ring debut, again on the Gold Coast.

Jasmine, eight, fought Georgina Barton, seven. Both weighed it at 22.5kgs. Georgina already had one fight under her belt and Parr said his daughter had been bugging him for months to get in there and had been sparring the boys her age. And with both parents being such high profile fighters, who can blame her, she was born for it. But Parr wasn’t prepared for the backlash, which is the biggest surprise of all actually. I didn’t expect him to be so naive.  I guess being immersed in the sport he wasn’t able to anticipate how the event might be exploited and regarded by those who don’t understand contact sport, as dangerous child abuse. For the first time, the very charming and charismatic Parr was on the back foot. I always liked the fact that he was married to a fighter and didn’t discriminate between male and female and I was interested to see how life for Jasmine would pan out. I have to say I envy her early start and both she and her Dad showed that everyone was happy with what had taken place.

But one thing stuck in my mind. If Jasmine was a boy, we’d never have even heard about it. In  many ways the anxiety and the controversy depends on Jasmine being a girl and that she was somehow being exploited in some creepy way. But if anyone wants to see what real child-expoloitation looks like they should watch a few episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras. If ever there’s a way of ensuring long term damage and seeing ugly adults feed their egos vicariously, this is it. If I was the mother of a female child I’d rather she express herself by what she can do, than by how she looks. I’d rather she take challenges and risks and learn courage and determination than assume that a nice smile would be enough.

Meanwhile, the adult women have been reasonably busy expressing themselves in Melbourne lately, with ‘Dirty Di’ Prazak stretching herself to ten rounds at super featherweight against NZ Bronwyn Wylie to earn the chance to fight ‘Lethal’ Lindsay Garbatt for the WIBA title on September 23.

Diana, whose name changed temporarily to Dynamite (my favorite) or ‘Lady Di’ didn’t let up on her relentless attack for the entire fight, showing the girl who beat Lauryn Eagle in March that she meant business. Wylie landed a couple of good punches on Diana but it was mostly one-way traffic, finals scores being 98-90, 100-91 and 98-91. Di had Wylie down in the final round after fighting for three rounds with a broken and bloody nose.

The next part of the journey for Diana and the most exciting one is that Melissa Hernandez will be here on Aussie soil to help her prepare, which is great news because since I first me her in 2007, I’ve been telling the Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx that her Larrakin, beer-drinking ways would fit right in here. The only trouble is, I’ll be in the US for most of the time Hrenandez is here. This is typical of my experiences with Melissa. Countless attempts to see her fight have been foiled by cards falling through and on-again-off-again dramas. Finally when I thought I was going to see her fight Holly Holm in Albuquerque New Mexico in 2010, fate again intervened. But all was not lost because the story now comprises a chapter of The Sweetest Thing.

When I spoke to Melissa before she left for Canada to fight Jelena Mrdjenovich, (which she won of a split decision) I said if she manages to get a fight here when I’m out of my own country and in hers, I’ll be having to write another book called ‘Chasing the Hurricane’.

Septima in red throws a right hand at Leisha Vaughan

At the Calabria Club on Sunday (July 26) there were two female bouts on the 20-fight marathon Tassie v Vic card. Bout 10 was Septima McArdle’s swansong. She’s leaving Australia and North Melbourne’s Boxing and Fitnessgym, to return to Ireland and managed to go out on a win at a lighter weight (62kgs) when she beat Tasmanian Leisha Vaughan 15-7.

Barry Michael, Septima McArdle and trainer Steve Stenborg.

Vaughan later told me her boxing career had been stop start for nearly a decade, having struggled to find opponents when she began. It resumed when she was in the UK in 2005 and there was an expectation about women getting into the Olympics. Hopefully we’ll see more of her on the mainland.

For the last bout Septima’s stable mate Alex Kelly debuted against former jockey Ami Foster from Mount Eliza. Ami has been up against some serious opposition in her four fight journey, including most recently, the seasoned New Zealand champion, the lanky, hard-punching Alexis Pritchard-Todd at the Arafura Games, which was a tall order for a novice. But the scores were 12-6 against a nice-moving and athletic prospect in Kelly, who although a tidy and technical debutant nonetheless struggled with a southpaw determined to make up for recent losses.

Alex Kelly and winner Ami Foster

Thanks to Werner ‘Kid’ Kalin for all the pictures.

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