A few weeks ago when I was at Test Park our young facilities assistant Tyrone Gordon reminded me very quietly (as is his way) that I liked all sports, and therefore would I be interested in watching his first ever official fight? I should point out here that he is right about my interest in sport (although dressage and synchronised swimming have been known to test the theory to the limits) but boxing has never been highest on my bucket-list. However, the chance to see one of our own in action proved a sufficient pull to deliver me to the Novotel Hotel last Friday.
“It starts at eight and I will be second or third on “ was Tyrone’s enthusiastic explanation, so I arrived at the Novotel just before eight for my first live taste of the Noble Art for several years. The crowd gradually settled, having visited the not inexpensive bar to ensure that they were suitably refreshed for the evening ahead. The bow-tied master of ceremonies then entered the ring and informed us that there was a delay because the ring-side doctor had not arrived (at least I think that’s what he said, the sound system was struggling at this point). Some returned to the bar, others scoured the fight list to find their favourite. I spotted two people sporting ‘Tyrone Gordon’ tee-shirts, so made my way to where they and Tyrone’s family were sitting. Ty came over and introduced his family, who were all quite rightly feeling proud, although in the case of some, particular his sister, there was a clear sense of trepidation. Ty’s dad has boxed himself, so was able to give some last-minute technical advice. His mum wanted him to come through unhurt.
Ty then told us that his fight was in fact near the end of the 14 bout bill, and the sound system was fixed sufficiently that we heard the announcement that the first fight would commence at 8.40, so I calculated that I would not be home at my usual time for my evening cocoa.
I watched the early fights with interest, particularly when one of our students, boxing for Team Solent, entered the ring and won. It was Ash Heather’s second fight, and his second win. I chatted to Team Solent coach Steve Barnes who was excited about the progress of the student club this year and told me that a second member was fighting later- against Ty. This of course divided my loyalties somewhat, but I decided that I would lend my support to our Ty as (i) I know him and (ii) I had by now positioned myself amongst his seemingly growing army of supporters. Inwardly though I knew either way I would be able to leave with Solent victory intact.
Several bouts came and went, displaying a varying but generally high level of skill and commitment, and also reflecting well on the organisers in that without exception they were fairly evenly contested. An interval was called, time for a comfort break and a glance at the watch which confirmed that Saturday was creeping ever nearer, and then the moment came…..
Tyrone, boxing for Golden Ring, entered the ring in Solent red, to much cheering and clamour, the most vocal support of the evening I concluded, although my position amongst the Gordon clan may have swayed this thought. Ben Rogers, Ty’s work colleague at Test Park and a regular boxing fan, emerged to swell the supporting ranks. Kurt Dingle , for Team Solent, also seemed to have a considerable vocal support, so it was only just possible to hear the bell which signalled the off.
As I have already admitted I am no boxing connoisseur but I immediately noticed a difference between some earlier performers, who had generally ‘boxed’ to these two warriors who wanted to ‘fight’. This is not to say that skill and technique did not play a part, but the two genuinely looked to throw punches and attack, and as a result this was the most entertaining contest of the entire programme. Tyrone had the longer reach and landed the bigger shots, but Kurt seemed to score more consistently. Whereas some of the earlier fights had appeared to drag on a bit, this one was in to the final round hardly before I realised. Both boxers seemed to sense that they needed to put in one final effort to secure the verdict and punches were traded as an excited crowd became even more vocal.
Eventually the bell (once again unheard over the din) sounded and six minutes of high-powered entertainment was brought to an end. Both guys looked spent and briefly celebrated with each other. Both camps seemed to think their man had won, not an uncommon theme, but understandable in this case as it was clearly a close call. Ben and I weren’t sure – he felt Tyrone’s bigger punches had clinched it, I thought Kurt might have scored more consistently. And then the moment that is an iconic image of boxing – the referee stood mid-ring with one hand-held boxer at each side while the verdict is announced. “And the winner by a unanimous decision in the red corner….” At that point the Gordon family raised the roof for one last time, their boy had done it – first fight in the bag!
Congratulated and photographed from all angles even the modest and humble Ty could not hide his excitement, while his family just showed unabashed and justifiable pride. It was a terrific night, and the abiding memory for me will be the emergence of Ty as a mature, confident young man, a huge step from the shy individual who joined us as an apprentice. Through the media of sport Ty seems to have found his mark and is ready to progress, in both boxing and in life generally. It is a great testimony to his supportive family and a he is a fantastic role model for his friends in Millbrook.
Two days later I saw Tyrone at work, and he was still buzzing from the adrenalin rush. He told me that he hadn’t slept on Friday night (incidentally I did make it back in time for cocoa so I slept very soundly, perhaps that’s the secret Ty?) and that his body had still not fully recovered. Physical effort and commitment combined with skill and mental strength, a cocktail that makes sport what it is. And there are still those that deny the role competitive sport has to play in society………