Wowcher versus Tyson Fury Fight Night

fury

Boxing is like jazz. The better it is, the less people appreciate it.” – George Foreman

I have to agree with the lean, mean fat-griller-endorsing machine on this. Boxing to me is very much like jazz – I haven’t got a clue how it works, real fans of it seem near enough mythical and I would definitely not be all that interested in having a go. Aside from the knowledge I have gathered from the Rocky movies (i.e. none whatsoever), I was and still sort of am a virgin when it comes to this, brutal, cinematic spectacle. It doesn’t strike me as a contest for gentlemen like days of old, it’s more like a contest for modern men – not just men, but manly men. Men who like to hit each other in the face. Men who buy tigers and keep them in their homes, men with a penchant for shiny suits, fast cars and going bankrupt. Men.

But I figured a slightly gentler introduction to the sport would appear in the form of the Tyson Fury charity fight night – taking place in the famous Clapham Grand. A night where people would have a few drinks, watch some dedicated sportsmen respectfully do what they do best to each other, and have the proceeds go to a good cause. While it certainly wasn’t exactly gentle, it offered an altogether more charming side to boxing to which I hadn’t really ever been exposed.

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of visiting the Clapham Grand – it’s essentially your standard London gig venue. An old converted theatre with stacked seating arching up into the rafters, boxes scattered around the flanks and a bar at the back facing the stage. Except tonight the set up was a wee bit different. The stage was home to the VIP seating section who were enjoying a Sunday roast when we got in, while the standing section (usually the bit where you stand if you want to lose a shoe and warm beer chucked at the back of your head) was now taken up by the boxing ring.

On TV and in the movies, boxing rings look natural, but up close they look, well, very square, very upright and very colourful. Like in a cartoon, or in an episode of WWE wrestling. You understand how much of the spectacle comes from just the physical appearance of the ring itself – it’s a really simple but effective prop that loses its old-school sheen as soon as it’s stuck in front of a camera.

So after a while of standing by the bar waiting for drinks, squirming through a growing gaggle to get towards the front and generally feeling like it was any other gig, everything started. Cue lots of dry ice, men in tuxedos, women in bikinis, men jumping up and down looking a bit frantic, taking their robes off and exposing surprisingly soft physiques and the whites of their eyes.

Then the bell rings and the men start pummelling at each other with the kind of vigour that I definitely did not expect from a non-competitive fight. Well, at least trying to pummel each other. Immediately you begin to see how difficult it actually is to punch someone in the head – there’s just so much moving, blocking, dodging, thinking and just general avoiding being punched yourself that has to be done.

Nonetheless, the first fight finished in around 30 seconds. It was clear once the dry ice settled that one in particular seemed to have a little more nous for the art of punching than the other – at least once the initial roar of the fidgety crowd (baying not exactly for blood but for action I suppose) died down.

The next couple of hours continued in this vain – the fights became more evenly matched from what I could tell, but what was so strange was how the thrill of another fight or round beginning never really wore off. Each time the bell rang it punctuated the bustly calm of the evening completely – all of a sudden everybody was ready to see some action. Everybody was hungry.

The charm to the whole evening was really disconnected from what I and probably a lot of other people expect from modern boxing. There is definitely a phoned-in glamour – the dry ice, the boisterous hip hop tracks pumped in whenever someone comes down to the ring and the bikini-clad women holding up the round cards to a half-embarrassed crowd – but it’s all nonetheless wonderfully British at heart.

There’s still people tutting when a fighter is late into the ring, there’s still the familiar gruff east-end voices growling into microphones, there’s still people eating Yorkshire puddings, there’s still the terribly polite manoeuvring through crowds with a £4 pint in one hand to be done and it still principally features pasty men who share a stiff (and swollen) upper-lip kind of love for this noble and kind of cute old sport. There was so little bravado, so little pretence and in a lot of cases so little tact that it was just a really, really fun and frantic spectacle – it wasn’t slick, it wasn’t jazz, it wasn’t Vegas, it didn’t float like a butterfly or sting like a bee and there was little glitter attached to any of it – but for a novice like me who was just after something a bit different to go and see on a Sunday evening – it was really, really fun.

Keep an eye out for more knock-out nights on Wowcher.co.uk with new, innovative and exciting experiences and activities being added daily!