Story By Dave Tacon
"There's nothing more Australian than a [boxing] tent,” fourth-generation showman Fred Brophy says over a beer between boxing bouts at the Rockhampton Show. “I’m proud to say it’s the last boxing troupe not only travelling Australia, it’s the last one left in the world, giving people ‘a round or two for a pound or two’.”
Indeed, Fred’s sideshow is a cultural relic. It hails from a time when the tattooed marvel, fat lady and half-man-half-woman drew crowds. Brophy’s famous boxing troupe is the last active link to a past that, as he points out, has been “replaced by mechanical rides”.
The recipe is simple: Anyone who feels like a fight can spar for up to three rounds against boxers such as ‘The Birdsville Mauler’, ‘Butterbean’ or ‘Kid Valentine’. “If you win, you get $20 a minute,” the showman spruiks to the crowd. “If you draw, you get nothing. If you lose, you get the experience.”
Finding out whether the challengers are handy with the gloves is part of the fun. As ‘Ringer from the Top End’ – rodeo rider Ben Fahey, 33 – says: “If they can’t fight, you’ve gotta look after them. If they can fight, you’ve gotta look after yourself!”
After 28 years on the road, Fred is thinking about retirement. “I’m writing a book at the moment; I’m half way through it,” he says. “When I finish, I’ll have one more tour around Australia, and that will be it – see ya later alligator. It will be a part of Australia that’s gone unfortunately. But it won’t be for a little while … I’ll still hang around as long as I can.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #60
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2008