The fight card for I.B.F. Middleweight Pan Pacific title bout between Australians Garth Wood and Daniel Geale had been billed as “…an old school fight card, at an old school venue…” with 6 undercard bouts before the title fight at the Hordern Pavilion. One of the fights listed didn’t exactly add to the “old school” feel with females Lauryn Eagle and Shari Ranger meeting in the second fight of the evening, but it gave the card a rounded look. Of the 6 lead up bouts the main interest surrounded NRL player Paul Gallen’s first professional boxing appearance. Most of Australia had seen him tee off on Nate Myles in game 2 of the 2013 State of Origin series, but this time he was actually allowed to throw punches in the heat of battle.
I’d never had the chance to shoot professional boxing before so I headed to the Hordern Pavilion early to get a feel for the set-up and work area. The venue looked great in readiness for the 6:15pm start and it didn’t take long for me to find a position, work out the light as best as I could before the first fight was underway.
The first fight on the card was a 6 round 63 kg Catch weight bout between Kye McKenzie of Australia and Arnon Yuchareon of Thailand. The two very lightweight men packed some weight in their punches which were delivered very swiftly.
McKenzie was awarded a TKO victory and celebrated with a mid-ring back flip. I was blocked by the referee as he stood over Yuchareon who was still down on his haunches in defeat. I didn’t get a frame of the black flip which was a bit disappointing.
I downloaded my cards to make sure everything looked OK and was fairly happy with the exposure. The lights were fairly low due to the low roof, leading to a fair bit of flair when the fighter came into the centre of the ring and across to my side. It was manageable and I felt like I was starting to get my timing right by the end of the fight.
Shari Ranger and Lauryn Eagle entered the ring for the 59.5kg catchweight Bout with Ranger looking a great deal bigger that Eagle.
Ranger had weighed in well over the limit but the fight went ahead anyway. The 3kg difference seemed to make a difference with Ranger awarded the win on points, landing – what seemed to me – a great deal more cleaner and heavier blows.
I’ve always thought Eagle was too pretty for boxing and Ranger enjoyed putting a few extra dents in Lauryn’s nose.
The next fight had a little bit of Hollywood excitement to it as Brad Pitt took to the ring for his Cruiserweight Bout against Emosi Solitua. The Hollywood excitement was just a fleeting chuckle at the name of Aussie boxer Brad Pitt who besides the name shared very little likeness to the Hollywood heart-throb of the same name. His opponent Solitua looked ominous but Commonwealth gold medallist and Olympic representative Pitt had a significant height advantage with a better boxing pedigree, but the Samoan–born “ball of muscle” across the ring looked dangerous. Milos, the photographer next to me obviously was on my same line of thought as he said to me “This could get ugly” as the fighters came together.
It did get ugly. Not exactly how I imagined it would but the first round knockout of Solitua was brutal – and quite ugly. He was going at Pitt hard chasing him around the ring throwing big bombs and Pitt waited for an opening and dropped the young bull with a huge left.
The lights went out instantly, Solitua rolled back on his heels and like it was in slow motion, fell rigidly to the canvas.
His eyes were rolled back in his head as he lay with his arms in that strange, tense looking “just been knocked out” position as the referee rushed to his aid.
The ref removed his mouth guard before he was rolled into the recovery position and slowly (very slowly) came round.
The actual punch didn’t make a picture as it was swift from close range. I was also shooting tight I didn’t get the whole scene in frame as he fell but I was on him after he landed and it made for a couple of “good” pictures.
There was a enough gap to file the shots and catch my breath after the swift one round KO before the Cruiserweight Bout fighters Jake Revill of New Zealand and Shane Quinn of Australia entered the ring. The fight was very one sided with Quinn throwing fast accurate punches hitting the mark hard and often.
Revill stayed on his feet longer than I thought he would, so it wasn’t a surprise when he was knocked over and Quinn took the fight within the distance.
The day before at the weigh-in there seemed to be some animosity between the next two fighters Aussie Kerry Foley and Kiwi Robert Berridge in Light Heavyweight division. You could feel the tension as they squared up in the ring. They traded blows and to me it seemed fairly even with Berridge starting to take the upper hand towards the halfway point of the 12 round brawl.
Foley raised the ire of the Kiwi corner with a couple of very late punches after the bell so when a few cornermen jumped in the ring shouting at the referee at the end of a round it seemed things could boil over.
It didn’t have time to heat up any further. A mistimed jab in the next round from Foley saw him automatically grimace
due to what looked like a hand injury and Berridge steamed in to capitalize. Foley took a knee after he received the Berridge barrage and the fight was over.
The Kiwi team were ecstatic with the win rushing in as Berridge celebrated his victory lifting him as he screamed making for a nice celebration picture for me.
Paul Gallen was up next. Due to his status as a rugby league player and the notoriety he has gained over the years for his hardman endeavors, everyone wondered how he would go.
It was his first professional fight and his opponent in the Heavyweight Bout was Queenslander Herman Purcell. Paul Gallen is a big guy and Herman was huge, packing a fair bit of poundage that wasn’t all athletic. It soon became very clear early in round 1 he intended to use every ounce of his hefty frame in each of his well telegraphed punches. He swung so hard into one big right hand round house that he swung himself off his feet as Gallen ducked to safety.
Gallen didn’t duck enough of them. Purcell dropped him with a left in the first round and the crowd – majority of whom were backing Gallen – went very quiet. I was on the far side of the ring and was blocked by Purcell and the referee so I thought I’d missed the biggest knock out of the night!! Thankfully for me (photographically) Gallen regained his feet, took the standing eight count and battled on. They traded massive blows from very close range with the punches packing a great deal more power than anything seen in the previous under cards. Gallen lasted the round and seemed to have cleared his head a bit as he was catching Purcell more often than not.
Round two was as brutal as round one with Gallen starting to assert his authority. A strange thing then happened. I’m putting it down to not having clue what he was doing due to being repeatedly punched in the head by a very big, strong human, but Herman Purcell dropped his guard and let Gallen hit him!! And hit him Gallen did. Over and over until the referee jumped in to pull Gallen back, awarding him the fight. As the ref held Gallen back Purcell – I’m sure in a state of non-conscious thought – saw an opening and landed a big left hand on Gallen as he was held back.
It was all back on! People rushed into the ring and as soon as it was back on it was back off again with order quickly restored.
Gallen had won his first professional fight in under two rounds, but was already talking post-fight about getting back into league training.
With the under cards completed, all that was left was the Garth Wood v Daniel Geale I.B.F. Middleweight Pan Pacific title fight. Wood had been very vocal in the lead-up to the fight and when his words failed to garner a reaction from a tight lipped Geale, he tried something a little more physical. He gave him a little head butt during the weigh-in! It was probably more about building his profile and selling tickets to the fight, but non-the-less it was a pretty low blow. Geale in an interview afterwards said he wasn’t surprised and that Wood was “…probably trying to cut me, like I know he’ll do tomorrow.” The scene was set.
The best thing about contact sport is once the bell rings or the whistle blows, actions are the real judge rendering empty words hollow. It’s also extremely hard to hide in a boxing ring. One on one, man on man.
It was time for Daniel Geale to let his gloves do the talking and early in the first round they spoke clearly to Wood saying “Put up or shut up!” Geale was brilliant and Wood who threatened pre-fight he was willing to brawl Geale looked all at sea finishing the first round already having his bum bumping the canvas.
It seemed like the threats he made to Geale at the weigh-in stating “This is my house, I’m going to do whatever I want to you…” were a little far-fetched. Unless he was going to attack Geale’s knees from all fours on the canvas!
After being dropped a couple of times in the early rounds and receiving a “get out of jail” card via a low blow from Geale which gave Wood time to regain his composure, breath and maybe even locate a testicle, Wood looked in big trouble.
He dug deep and settled into the fight but Geale remained the same and dominated the fight. The bell was the greatest of allies for Wood as he looked seconds away from being knocked out, only to be literally saved by the bell in rounds one and six.
Geale kept on him and his great facial features when punching the defensive Wood made for a nice few pictures showing how much he was putting into the punches trying to end the fight.
The end came with Wood not able to come out for the 8th round. It was slightly anti-climatic for the big talker to have his corner call the fight, but also a measure of the toughness of the man. He took a beating and still kept his feet.
Geale won and won well. The title was his and he accepted the belts awarded with the same quiet humbleness and class he’d displayed leading into the fight.
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