Chess Boxing, Pride FC and Journeymen Fighters

Colm Ryan

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Floyld Mayweather Jr. is currently the world's highest paid athlete.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the world’s highest paid athlete by some distance.  Credit: Bryan Horowitz – Flickr

This week saw yet another entry into the will-they-or-won’t-they saga of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., as the two biggest names in combat sports inch closer to the possibility of the super fight to end all super fights.

 

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is for certain – if they do make the walk in Vegas this May it will be the highest earning fight of all time with a box office exceeding $250m.

But what about the fighting that exists spectacular? Here lies a world of combat resigned to the shabby venues of yesteryear, if even that. Ranging from the sanctioned to the not so sanctioned (and of course those that thread the line between) to the flat-out bizarre.

A Toughman contest from Bay City Michigan.
A ‘Toughman’ contest from Bay City Michigan, countless such events take place right across the world.  Credit: The Toad

Boxing has countless journeymen or ‘tomato cans’ that manage to make a humble living getting in the ring expecting to lose. However, looking closer at their record will show many good fighters just lacking that something extra like Johnny Greaves.

His six year career boasted one hundred professional fights and just four wins. But he was rarely stopped in the ring managing to take opponents of higher calibre the distance on a regular basis. In a business dominated by records and undefeated streaks, it’s easy to see how there is a need for such fighters to put over future champions.

 

Fighters clocking up a century of fights is a throwback to the early days of a more unregulated sport. Such bare knuckle fights still exist today (We’ve all seen the YouTube videos…).  But in Australia’s Outback exists not so much a throwback but a time warp in the form of Tent Boxing.

The most famous promoter is Fred Brophy, who’s tent has seen just about every outpost that there is across the continent over the last four decades. He’s even been inducted into mainstream boxing halls of fame.

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The exterior of Fred Brophy’s travelling tent.  A favourite of locals in the far reaches of the outback.  Credit:  Geoffrey Rhodes

This fighting literally takes place in travelling circus tents, complete with entrance ways that would not look out of place with medium size animals walking down them.

The governments in four states have said no more, although this unique promotion still rolls from small town to small town drawing a mix of locals and backpackers alike.

 

Type MMA into google.ie and you will get various results related to the UFC, or more specifically Conor McGregor. Newcomers should catch up on not only the dramatic early days of the UFC itself but also the wide variety of other promotions that have come and gone.

Japan’s Pride FC at times blurred the lines between real and predetermined fights, even featuring top Japanese pro wrestlers.  It eventually collapsed in scandal, but before its demise could regularly sell over 40,000 tickets and was seen as a legitimate rival by the UFC.

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Fans in attendence in Nagoya for Pride FC.  Credit: Kohei Yamada – Flickr

Today you can find a litany of independent promotions such as Battlegrounds MMA, who run one night eight-man elimination tournaments like the early days of the sport to the more unconventional Japanese league ZST (pronounced Zest) which showcases tag-team (two on two) MMA fights.

 

Tag-team fighting might seem a little out there but one can only wonder what was going through the mind of the guy in a boxing gym who said to himself, “You know what this needs? A Chess board…” and so Chess Boxing was born.  It did originate in Amsterdam, in fairness.

There’s even a world championship to pursue. However, due to the fluctuating popularity of Chess across the world its growth has been somewhat hampered.

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During Chess rounds participants wear headphones to block out distractions.  Credit: Susana Heredia Sanchez – Flickr

And for those that feel the need to pull on the gloves and fight legally? There’s always White Collar Boxing, but Thailand’s proud tradition of Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing) gives Westerners a chance to holiday, train and if ready fight.

Don’t expect to pay for your flight home, but most beginners make at least a small purse and if good enough can earn into the low thousands given time.

 

Maybe not Mayweather money, but something nonetheless.

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Colm Ryan