August 13, 2006
For those who went to the Moonlight Ramble last night instead of the Panda boxing exhibition and fundraiser, well, hopefully something spectacular happened. If not, they picked the wrong event to attend.
A few weeks ago, there were rumblings and whispers about a backyard-style boxing match. Another week passed before a smallish group of St. Louisans received an email invitation to “Midnight Boxing and Punk Rock.” The charter members of Hoosierweight boxing were coming out of various stages of retirement to spar for the benefit of their home gym, the Panda AC. No titles were on the line and punches were planned to be in the spirit of brotherhood rather than combat. There was fair warning that it’d be hot.
Flash forward to 12 August 2006.
The promised punk rock revved up at about 10:40. Loud doesn’t even begin to describe the opening act. The second group was less punk and appreciated by all, er, most. Oddly, a third band began to set up and featured one of the boxers in almost full gear. Too bad for them, those assembled were hungry for the main event and the music was scarcely heard, despite the volume.
At this point, fighters began gearing up to get in the ring and there was a tangible change in the atmosphere- a tension. The combination of silenced music and an anticipatory crowd mixed for an eerie calm inside the gym as men in headgear began to pace. They walked inside the gym, outside on the St. Louis streets and rolled their heads around their shoulders. Ordinarily gentle men wore facial expressions of angry concentration and necessary business.
Spectators - young punks, old timers, hipsters - slowly filtered inside from Broadway, the loading dock, from the alleys. The ring lights drew them in with some sitting on the sparse benches and chairs while most stood around the dim perimeter of the ropes and a few lurked in the shadows of the gym. Was there a barely audible hum? A buzzing? Could have been. Pretty sure there was. As the first pair of boxers entered the ring it was as though the collective and sweating crowd stopped breathing for a moment.
The fighting began.
It was stunning, raw, visceral and sexy.
While the rest of St. Louis rode bikes in the dark, a comparative handful were treated to an experience almost indescribable and absolutely unlike any other.