You can play football. You can play rugby. But you can’t play boxing.
Wise words indeed from boxing guru Mark ‘The Burf’ Burford, who did a tremendous job of compering CRN’s first ever white collar boxing event at The Brewery in Chiswell Street, London on 29 May.
Described by one guest as the best night of his life, CRN’s Fight Night 2008 was a runaway success. It exceeded all expectations and has established itself firmly in the CRN annual calendar.
A total of 16 fighters from vendor, distributor and reseller backgrounds had spent the past three months training intensively for the evening, giving up their free time to reach fighting fitness in time for the event.
This is with the exception of two extremely brave men, CRN’s own Nick Booth, who stepped in to replace Greig Weir from Stonesoft three weeks before the event, and the even braver Zac Phillips, who literally stepped in at the last minute to replace Justin Floyd from Smartfundit.
Guests arrived on the evening to be greeted by girls on roller skates holding trays of champagne before wandering into the main room for the action. Those girls later swapped the champagne for tequila, and caused quite a bit of damage to a few heads the next day.
The room itself, which featured the boxing ring as the centre attraction surrounded by tables, soon filled up with more than 400 punters looking forward to the fight.
The action kicked off at around 7.30pm. First out was Nick “The Hack” Booth, fighting Jason “Tosh Destroyer” Philip from Toshiba. The fight was stopped by the referee in the second round, but already the crowd were on their feet cheering for their favourite.
Second on was Incisive’s own Paul “The Hammer” Harvey, who put up a brave fight against Centi q’s Steve Mason, but the onslaught was too much and again the fight was stopped by the referee. This time in the third round.
After the first two bouts, the first of three charity auctions took place, with the auctioneer squeezing every last penny out of the audience for prizes such as a signed Portsmouth football shirt, VIP days at the races and the Donington World Superbike Race, a cricket bat signed by six former England captains, VIP tickets to the British Golf Open at Royal Birkdale, tickets to Status Quo at the NEC, match tickets to see Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and an ultimate driving experience with Mercedes Benz.
After a meal of Goats cheese and pear salad, stuffed breast of chicken and crepes, the fighting resumed. This time the atmosphere was really charged, helped by vast quantities of fine wine and champagne consumed during the meal.
The next three bouts Andy “The Saint” Sayers from BakBone Software vs Billy “The Raging” Turnbull from 3Com, Mike “The Madman” Cumby from D-Link vs Gary “The G-Man” Olive from Servo Computer Services, and Jamie “Gentleman Jim” Stewart from CAE Technology Services vs Adrian “The Machine” Sunderland from Griffin Internet went by in a blur, with plenty of shouting and cheering from the audience.
At the end of each bout, the audience were asked to hold up cards depicting a red boxer on one side and a blue boxer on the other, and vote for who they thought should be declared the winner.
After another set of auction lots the final three fights went ahead. The first was a true clash of the titans with 6ft 2in Ross “The Rossinator” Woodhurst from Telinet Group vs 6ft 3in Darren “Silverback” Clare from CMS Peripherals. Following that was Stuart “The Judgement” Jarvis from Micro Peripherals vs Andy “The Punisher” Butterfied from Computacenter and the final bout was Zac “The Educator” Phillips vs Steve “Easy” Vaughan from Q Associates.
The Burf was immensely proud of his warriors. Speaking to CRN, he said: “This was a fantastic inaugural boxing event and there was an incredible atmosphere in the crowd. This was the first time we have run an event like this in the channel and I’m really impressed with the way the fans got behind it.
“As far as competitive events go I cannot believe there are many like them in the channel and as for the fights and the fighters, I would struggle to get more excitement from a professional boxing event. It was an up and downer with the commitment from the heart only matched by the noise of the crowd. All I can say at this juncture is I cannot wait for CRN Fight Night 2009.”
After the final fighters had lapped up their moment of glory, the party at the Brewery went on until around 1am and the true revellers among the guests went on to the after show party at the Bedouin Bar in Smithfield, which ended at about 4.30am. The next day a lot of people were nursing a similar hangover to the one felt after the Channel Awards.
Many of the fighters were keen to repeat their experience next year, but the aim is to recruit a lot more fighters for the 2009 Fight Night. CRN managed to catch up with most of the boxers the next day to get their feedback and also ask for words of wisdom for people thinking of taking part next year.
Nick “The Hack” Booth said: “I noticed there were a few boos from the audience as the compere described me as a journalist. There is no point getting upset about it, but it has been worth studying the TV footage to see which table was singing ‘You’re going home in a ******* ambulance.’”
As for the fight, Booth said: “He was stronger and fitter than me. He was a better boxer, better prepared. The better man won. My thanks go to Jason for being such a good sport. He’s a lovely bloke when he has taken his gloves off. Thanks also to the trainers at City Boxer who made it such an enjoyable experience. There was great camaraderie between all the boxers and I’d recommend it to anyone.
“I’ve never seen such excitement and bonhomie at an industry event. All the aggression was channelled in the right direction and it was an unforgettable night.”
Jason “Tosh Destroyer” Philip, said: “I’m very glad I got in the ring and the evening was very exciting. Fair play to Nick for being such a sport and for stepping in at such late notice he has my respect. On the night it was just me and him in the ring. I have never tried anything like that before and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Andy “The Saint” Sayers, who was nursing a black eye and split lip the next day, said: “It was a great event. The venue was perfect and the atmosphere was excellent both in the main hall and backstage. It was a very well put together event. From a personal point of view it was an adrenaline rush and it was even better to win. Despite my injuries I was still able to celebrate with a glass or two of champagne.”
Sayers recommended taking part in the 2009 event: “If you are naturally compe titive, this is a great way to develop your fitness. However, if you do it, you really do have to want to do it. It is a tough and long process and you have to be committed.”
Andrew “The Punisher” Butterfield, echoed those sentiments. “It was an
absolutely amazing evening. For all the fighters, win or lose, it was a relief
when they came back in one piece. The crowd really helped, and being in the ring
was totally different from sparring; you were in a different zone.
“I certainly hadn’t been to anything like this before and it is one of the things I’m going to take with me for the rest of my life.”
Darren “Silverback” Clare, said: “The event was really well organised and as with all first shows there is always bound to be some nerves, but I’m sure this is going to be an annual event. CMS Peripherals was delighted to have such a high profile at this event and the fight itself surpassed expectations. I think it will definitely set a precedent, but next year’s event will probably have an even higher standard. It is going to be an amazing event for many years to come.”
Jamie “Gentleman Jim” Stewart, said the good spirits in the dressing room had a positive effect.
“There was a great camaraderie backstage and we were all pulling together, even when we had the opportunity to go out and join our supporters,” he said. The whole operation was well organised and the evening was a definite hit. I was proud to be part of it.
“Actually taking part in a fight is difficult to put into words, but the crowd animated all the fights. They were good matches and very entertaining. It was a great evening in every respect.”
Stewart also recommended boxing to future contenders.
“I would definitely recommend it. But you must be dedicated because it takes a lot of time and energy. I was training between eight and 10 times a week and I still don’t know if that was enough. Boxing is like no other sport and once you have been bitten by the bug, there really is no going back.”
Paul “The Hammer” Harvey, said: “What an experience. I am very pleased that I did it. Seeing all my friends and colleagues out in the crowd with the hammers was a massive lift, and the changing room was a hotbed of emotions before and after fights.
“The whole night went by in a blur for me. One minute I was lapping up the music, the next I was on the end of Steve’s combinations. After that it was all over and onto a shed load of beers and lapping up the plaudits in the Bedouin Bar. I loved it all. Would I do it again? You bet. Bring on Fight Night 2009.”
Adrian “The Machine” Sunderland, said: “I would recommend it to anyone. The event was run superbly and it was the right balance of risk and adrenaline as a fighter I felt very protected by the referees. The crowd was fantastic I have seen other events where the boxing itself was incidental, but on the night the audience was totally into every fight.
“The camaraderie between the boxers themselves was great and it was a fantastic journey. It is one of the things in my life that I am most proud of.”
Gary “G-Man” Olive, lost two and a half stone during his 10 weeks’ training. He said: “My thanks go to The Burf and his team for the excellent training they provided the quality of the guys boxing was fantastic.
“For me the highlight of the evening was the crowd hearing them cheering definitely spurred me on. I would totally recommend it to anyone.”
Steve “Meantime” Mason said: “I would recommend the training alone to anyone. The feeling of stepping into the ring was amazing and we were blown away by the venue. It was a great night and I am looking forward to next year when I can sit at a table and enjoy the meal, while someone else goes through the fighting.”
Steve “Easy” Vaughn echoed his fellow fighters’ comments.
“Everyone put their hearts and souls into the event. I am already hearing from people who want to take part next year and some have asked me to help train them!”
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