Stepping into the ring in Fred Brophy’s Birdsville boxing tent

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Stepping into the ring in Fred Brophy's Birdsville boxing tent
Unfortunately for me, I AM one of those gladiators and the blood the crowd is likely to see is mine.I’m at Birdsville in the Queensland Outback, about to step into the ring in the famous Fred Brophy boxing tent.Why, I can’t quite remember except that it seemed like a good idea at the time.It sure doesn’t seem like a good idea now. Right now I’m so nervous I can barely breathe.I’m fighting a bloke called the Enforcer, a copper from Mt Isa with dreams of joining the UFC in America.My only dream is to get through three rounds without being knocked into next week.For four generations the Brophy family has toured the country with a troupe of boxers challenging all-comers to try their shot at glory in the ring.
In an age of political correctness and multimillion-dollar lawsuits, the boxing tent stands proudly like an ancient dinosaur, a remnant of a time when differences were settled with fists instead of lawyers or cyber taunts on Facebook.Government legislation in some states has made it hard for Brophy’s tent, the last of its kind, to continue and now the travelling road show is restricted to about a dozen shows a year at race meets and rodeos across the Outback.But Birdsville remains its spiritual home, where Brophy’s tent is just as synonymous with their famous festival as the nags galloping across the dusty main straight of the racetrack a few kilometres away.Each night thousands gather outside the tent to witness a spectacle that is equal parts violence and theatrical art.After what seems an eternity past the advertised starting time, Brophy, a true outback showman, climbs on stage and starts beating his giant drum.It’s like the sound of two tribes going to war.It’s also like the sound of my heart pounding out of my chest.Brophy’s brawlers come out on stage followed by a call for challengers from the crowd.He looks straight at me:”This bloke looks pretty serious, get him up here”, he says. “What do you do mate?” he asks.”I’m a reporter”, I reply.”We’ll give you something to report”, he says as the crowd erupts in cheers.Other fighters are picked from the crowd and matched against opponents before the action begins inside the ancient arena, which has hosted great boxing names from the past such as Jeff Hardy and Tony Mundine.I’m up second and will have to sit through the first fight, which sees an angry-looking bloke from Sydney go toe-to-toe with one of Brophy’s boys for three rounds in a brutal bout.

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