Almanac Boxing: Boxing Observations and Andy Broome

I love boxing but I have never boxed a ‘round’ in my life. To those that have, I am nothing more than a groupie.

On reflection I probably enjoy the sport simply because I couldn’t do it. You could say that it’s not ‘in me’. I would win a fight by the length of the straight. I laugh about it now, reminding myself that athletics was more my go anyway.

This may sound strange but I wish I did have it ‘in me’. I wished I was as tough as the blokes that stepped in the squared ring. Tough enough to train hard, tough enough to take a punch and tough enough to come back from it.

When it’s all boiled down, I liked the physical, brutal application of man versus man. A physical toughness that you either have, or you don’t.

Boxing doyen Gus Mercurio summed it up best when he suggested, ‘some people won’t do it and can’t do it’.

I grew up in a town called Shepparton in country Victoria. The local boxing hero in the ’70s and ’80s was a bloke by the name of Darcy Richie. He was one tough ‘hombre’ but a nice enough bloke just the same.

Better judges than me thought Darcy was a world champion in the making. In his heyday nobody wanted to fight him. Unfortunately for ‘Darc’ a couple of stints in prison didn’t help his cause.

One day, in a fit of blind stupor, I went to Darcy to learn how to fight. The consensus after a session was simply that ‘you can’t turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse’.

So with my boxing career clearly behind me, I became an avid fan of both the sport and those that inhabit it.

Drilling down further, my liking for the sport started specifically in 1985. I was 15 years old and it was a banner year for Australian boxing.

In February of ’85, 19 year old Melbourne fighter, Lester Ellis won the International Boxing Federation Junior Lightweight title by beating a Korean with the rather crazy name of Hwan Kil Yuh.

Five months later, veteran Barry Michael took the title from Ellis, in a 15 round war roundly acknowledged as one of Australia’s greatest fights.

In the same year, and in only his 7th professional fight, Sydneysider Jeff Fenech, affectionately known as ‘The Marrickville Mauler’, was on the way to becoming a legend of the sport by beating Japanese fighter Satoshi Shingaki to win the IBF Bantamweight crown.

It was a grandstand year for Australian boxing, and personally the start of a lifelong love affair with the fight game.

Barry Michael remains a constant in the sport these days, now 60 years of age the former world champion promotes regular shows around Melbourne. He also manages a few fighters including world rated Super Middleweight, Zac Dunn.

It was at one of Barry’s promotions at the Melbourne Pavilion early in November this year that I met Andy Broome and learned a bit about the fight game.

Melbourne born and bred,Broome had 54 professional fights across 11 years as a pro. He won the Australian Super Lightweight title in 1981 and finished with a solid career record of 31 wins, 16 losses and 7 draws.

The Melbourne Pavilion is a nice venue and Andy Broome is an even nicer bloke. I didn’t know him at all before he introduced himself and other than his beaming smile he grabbed my attention when he explained that he lost a fight to Barry Michael a few years ago.

Over the loud music and crowd noise, Andy told me that Barry beat him in a Victorian Lightweight title fight way back in ’75. To his credit he also said that he was beaten fair and square. Respect is carved in stone with older fighters and I wondered if modern day fighters are the same.

Former Australian champion Frank Ropis described Andy as a good bloke, a gentleman and an exceptional fighter plying his trade in perhaps the toughest era of Australian boxing. High praise from one of the greats.

In an interesting side note, Andy fought Frank four times for three losses and a draw.

Other than his Australian Super Lightweight title, perhaps Andy’s biggest win came against Ghanaian David Kotey in 1972.

The undefeated Kotey took on Broome at Melbourne’s festival Hall and in a surprise upset, the Aussie gloveman came away with a clear cut point’s victory.

Kotey eventually won the World Boxing Council Featherweight title in 1975 by beating the great Mexican fighter Ruben Olivares. Most Australian boxing fans would know that Olivares was the fighter that dethroned our own Lionel Rose.

Andy Broome is an easy going, jovial guy and he spoke of the old days and how boxing used to be. Retiring from the sport in 1982 he rarely attends ‘the fights’ these days but remembers fight nights on every single week back in his day.

In the ’50s,’60s and early ’70s there were bouts on each Friday night at Festival Hall, then known as the West Melbourne stadium. There were also fight nights on Wednesdays and the wrestling on Saturday night which included boxing. These days we might be lucky to see one fight night per month.

Sitting next to Andy was like being mentored. He commented on the crowd, the fighters themselves and provided general analysis on what was going on. In most bouts he could pick the winner only minutes after the start of the first round and he seemed to have a knack for picking up the ‘holes’ in a fighter’s technique. He even called a knockout moments before it happened. Good fighters who have been well schooled can read a fight.

During the evening two boxers fought for a Victorian title, both having fought less than a handful of times each. When Andy fought for the Victorian title 40 years ago, he had racked up 28 fights. In his mind it’s a sign of the times. Who wants to fight, there are plenty of easier things to do. Back in his day that’s all there was to do.

On this night, names like Bilal Akkawy, Ismael Kerra and Abdullah Hamden are dotted throughout the program. With origins in faraway lands it’s certainly a long way from names like Broome, Fenech, Michael and Ellis. Again it’s probably a sign of the times and multicultural Australia.

What is interesting is the fact that both Barry Michael and Lester Ellis were born in England and Jeff Fenech is of Maltese decent. As much as boxing changes, it stays the same.

Boxing is strewn with tough men who have laced on the gloves for pay. Blokes that were tough enough to train hard, tough enough to take a punch and tough enough to keep coming back.

Andy Broome was one of those guys and I watch from afar in admiration of the sport and fighters like Andy, the real fighters, the blokes that had it ‘in them”.

 

About David Griffin

Lover of coffee, sport and human endeavour. A writer and life enthusiast with a shameless admiration for dogged persistent people that get 'stuff' done.

Comments

  1. Interesting observations Dave, it seems these days the entry to boxing is through a professional football career to attract media attention. I am not sure the boxing purists approve but you have to get fights promoted where you can while raising the profile.

  2. G’day David. You mention Frankie Ropis. He was one tough fighter, and so was his brother Matt to a lesser degree. I remember hearing how Frank ran in gumboots to toughen himself up !!! Frank s clanm to fame was a fight he lost to Barry Michael on Ash Wednesday 1983. A stinking hot night,embers and ashes from the fire reaching Melbourne and these to wblokse slugged it out for 15 rounds. Greta bout, Frank copped a lot but kept going.

    Australian boxing in 2015 is doing it hard. If the best we can offer i sa Mundine V Green reamach, WTF !?!?! It is purely about money as both are well past their peak. It was a reasonable bout in 2006 but that’s a decade ago, both blokes are not what they were or could have been. To do it again is sad, as it is simply about $$$$.

    Daniel Geale is struggling, Will Tomlinson hasn’t come on yet, Garth Wood is not around and does anyone remember Vic Darchinian ? Australian boxing needs a revival lot two ‘old’ blokes fighting a sa blatant money making excercise.

    Glen!

  3. Thanks Davep – I don’t like it at all…..footballers turned boxers that’s is but its all about promotion. The sport needs a hero. Thanks for your comment.

    Thanks Glen – I caught up with Frank this week. Amazing bloke and very, very tough. I hadn’t heard about the gum boots……amazing. We need a hero as per my last comment to Davep. We have a kid coming through by the name of Zac Dunn. He has just won in the US. The jury is still out on Will Tomlinson but I agree with everything you are saying. I think that’s why I love the older fight stories. Keep an eye out for a story on Frank Ropis soon. Thanks for your comment.

  4. An article on Frank Ropis: that sounds good David.

    Will Tomlinson is still young and hopefully can regain the earlier poise and promise to make a name for himself. Tell me more about Zac Dunn, eight division, age, etc. I’m really out of the loop re where boxing is at in 2015.

    Daniel Geale , has scaled the heights, winning title belts, beating Mundine,though he might have peaked. Sam Soliman has been quiet of late. I can’t think of too much else beyond the tedious hype of a Mundine V Green rematch . It’s a pity Barry Hall never made the transition to boing. Good juniour boxer, good judges rated him.

    Glen!

  5. Thanks Glen,
    Zac is a 24 year old Super Middleweight with a record of 19 wins and 15 by KO. He has the IBO Super middleweight world title and is now ranked inside the top 15 in most of the “recognized” world bodies. Geale has lost three of his last five fights and has been KOed twice over the past 18 months. He was a good fighter but better judges than me so he should retire.
    I think Mundine v Green will happen and it will be the “money” swansong for both fighters.
    Thanks for your comments, its great chatting.
    Cheers
    David

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