You have to be tough as nails to step inside Brophy's ring
IT TAKES a tough man, or woman, to step into the ring against one of Fred Brophy's fighters.
Some say you have to be mad but that's not what I saw on Saturday night when I entered the legendary boxing tent to witness its brutal style of entertainment at Burnett Heads.
Fred Brophy is an Australian icon.
The fourth-generation showman runs the last traditional tent boxing troupe in the world.
In 2009 he was inducted into Queensland's boxing hall of fame.
A year later, after 35 years of travelling the length and breadth of Australia, he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for entertainment to the outback.
He started boxing at 5 and kept at it for 20 years before crossing over to run and own his own troupe.
When I met Fred before the show he was sitting in front of a fire with his entourage in the tent compound.
He'd just come home to Burnett Heads after a very wet Birdsville Races.
Wearing an Akubra and sipping a red wine, he welcomed me into the fold.
Fred was open and a straight shooter.
He told of his admiration for Pauline Hanson, his love of his home town of Burnett Heads and how it has the best pub in Australia (the Lightouse Hotel) and his dislike of political correctness.
And it's no wonder he dislikes political correctness - the "do-gooders" have been trying to shut down his show for years.
Like his fighters, Fred doesn't go down easily and vows to keep his unique brand of Aussie entertainment alive for as long as he can.
Spruiking his show, high on a platform in front of the tent, to 200-plus patrons, Fred lets them know they are in for a special night.
With drums beating and bells ringing, he says "we are going to give you something you have never seen before and you will never see again and you will talk about if for years to come".
He was half right.
I'd been to a Fred Brophy fight night before.
It was about 36 years ago, aged 10.
I was with my dad at the Gympie Show.
It was a night I have long remembered and stepping into the tent on Saturday not much had changed.
The chairs are now plastic and everyone is holding a mobile phone to record the action but other than that it was like stepping back in time.
A time when men were blokes and the women were sheilas, and a dust-up was part of a normal night out.
And like 36 years ago there were plenty of locals wanting a shot in the ring.
In reality there is no ring, just a canvas mat signifying the fight zone.
According to Fred, Bundy has some of the toughest fighters on tour but not one of them was good enough to collect the $30-a-minute prize purse on offer Saturday.
There were some close battles and Fred kept control of them all.
Even a knockout, a fighter getting tackled into the crowd and heckling from onlookers couldn't upset the boxing veteran.
He kept the show running like clockwork before retiring back to the fire with a nice glass of red.