By Paul Daffey
February 28, 2004
Many moons ago, this reporter would venture to the Melbourne Town Hall for the annual ball held by Melbourne University's science faculty. In more recent times, the red carpet that ascends from Swanston Street has led to one of the Alfred Deakin lectures on Australian history or, on several occasions, a gig at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
So it was with some curiosity that the town hall's red carpet was negotiated on this occasion alongside a posse of kick-boxing fans. Almost to a man, these fans wore jeans, tight T-shirts and groovy sneakers.
Their hair was slicked into strict formation and their jaws worked on wads of chewy.
The old town hall proved the ideal host for the macho crowd.
It was all to do with proportion. The ring fitted snugly into the centre of the dance floor. About 15 rows of chairs stretched neatly back from all four sides of the ring.
Above them, the stalls seemed so low that spectators could almost reach over the front row and touch the fighters.
Purveyors of the old boxing halls in London's East End might have been impressed.
Before every bout, competitors paraded on to the stage amid blaring music and colourful smoke emitted from a series of pipes. Occasionally, a few fireworks went off. It was like a Kiss concert.
Once they had reached the centre of the stage, the competitors let fly with a series of sharp jabs at the air. Such a practice is called shadow-boxing. It looks strange, but on this night it was less strange than the shenanigans that accompanied it.
Before Nick "The Terror" Tetoros had paraded onto the stage for his shadow-boxing schtick, he was preceded by two men wearing black strides, white shirts and an enormous mask. On both of those masks was an enormous moustache.
The impression of Hellenic waiters was augmented by their practice of dancing to an electro version of Zorba the Greek.
The Hellenic waiters danced from the stage and on to the catwalk that led to the ring. On both sides of the catwalk were young men dancing with a combination of Zorba steps and contemporary nightclub moves.
One or two shook their heads and yelled. It was a wild old scene.
Pity, then, that the fight was over before you could say, "Pass the tzatziki". In one of two boxing bouts on the card - there were also seven kick-boxing bouts - Tetoros was vanquished early in the second round by David Wiremu. A New Zealander, Wiremu battered Tetoros with repeated blows to the head and body before winning on a technical knockout. Although not accompanied by dancing, Stanley "Headhunter" Nandex made the most arresting entrance when he appeared with a large bow arranged diagonally across his chest. In his hand was a long, thin arrow.
Nandex, a highlander from the village of Yanguri in Papua New Guinea, later explained that his grandfather had bequeathed him the bow and arrow. As his grandfather was renowned as a warrior who united tribes in the highlands, Nandex saw it as his destiny to continue the tradition, albeit in a Western environment, with Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee as leading inspirations.
Nandex's opponent, Daniel Nixon from Wagga Wagga, towered over him as they circled each other in the ring.
Nandex's stocky body, as hard as a rock, contrasted with Nixon's pale, somewhat flabby form. The greatest difference, though, was in the eyes. Nandex fixed his stare into the eyes of Nixon, who spent most of the bout looking startled. Like the spectators, he seemed worried at the thought of what Nandex was about to do to him.
Not long afterwards, Nandex ended the fight in brutal though unpredictable manner. In seeking to overcome his lack of height, he launched into the air and performed an aerial roll.
His right ankle connected above his opponent's right ear.
Nixon, now truly startled, bounced against the ropes before staggering in a wobbly circle and dropping to the canvas. Nandex took his bow and arrow and returned to the makeshift dressing-room, proud to be known as the Headhunter.
The emphatic victory prompted Tarik Solak, the evening's promoter, to take the microphone from master of ceremonies Pauly Fenech.
With all the pizazz evident in his blue pinstripe suit and vermilion tie, not to mention his shining mane of black hair, Solak announced that the Headhunter would soon be running for election as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. Spectators were not sure what to think. Fenech saw fit to restore the tone of the evening. "That was fully sick, mate. I love it."
Fenech's final role was to announce the bout between Aaron Boyes, another New Zealander, and Gurkan Ozkan, who was born in Turkey, grew up in Knox, and in recent years has made his home in Prahran.
On the night before this fight, Ozkan ran from Prahran to Armadale for the weigh-in.
Ozkan's record is intimidating. Now 33, he claims to have won five world titles, including four in separate divisions.
To this outsider, the process for deciding world champions in kick-boxing - and boxing, for that matter - appears ad hoc.
But, world titles aside, Ozkan's record of 30 first-round knockouts speaks loudly enough. In the first round of this bout, both fighters were intent on sizing up their task.
Boyes, with pale, hairy legs and balding red hair, looked unfashionable and determined.
Ozkan, power oozing from his squarish body, smiled and invited the challenger to take a swing. At one stage, after Boyes had pushed him into a corner, Ozkan blew a kiss into a television camera that was beaming images to six countries.
At the end of the round, Ozkan's corner was alarmed by blood gushing from a cut over his eye. Boyes's knee had connected, perhaps illegally, prompting the Ozkan corner to ask the referee whether the fight should continue. Ozkan's trainers wanted him to back out, but he refused.
Reasoning he could protect his eye and finish off his opponent, he returned to the ring and raised the tempo.
The next few rounds were absorbing. Variously, the champion would unleash a flurry of kicks and punches in between periods of dormancy, in which he would leave himself exposed. When Boyes accepted the challenge to plant a punch on his chin, Ozkan would shoot a lightening left jab towards the challenger's teeth.
The fight lasted its full five rounds before judges awarded a unanimous points decision to Ozkan.
By Paul Daffey
February 28, 2004