Story by Pete McMartin

Monday, April 9th, 1979 by Pete McMartin, The Vancouver Express

The guy tending the resin box for the fighters in the blue corner was drunk.

Well before the bouts started, we had been pulling on a pint of Johnny Walker Red, and the booze was beginning to sever his last ties with civilized behaviour. He began laughing uncontrollably, stomping his feet on the floor and slapping the canvas floor of the boxing ring as hard as he could. Above the roar of the crowd he yells, “I been in Hawaii man, I been in New York, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, South America, you name it … and man, I ain’t never seen nothin like this before. This is the biggest damn rush I’ve ever had in my life.”

To our left sit 150 members of the east end Satan’s Angels biker club. They are wearing their colors and there is more leather there than at a tannery. They, too, look drunk, or drugged, or more likely both. They also look very mean, but they are in a festive mood. Three or four of their boys will be fighting in tonight’s bouts and they have reserved ringside seats since the tickets went on sale.

To our immediate right sit three young ladies whose jobs it is to enter the ring between rounds and announce, by means of a placard held high above their heads, the next round.

They are very pretty and each time one of them saunters around the ring, the mostly male crowd get dangerously hysterical.

The girls wear enough clothing to make it legal.
After one of them makes her appointed round, she flops back into her chair. She is clearly shaken
“Jesus Christ,” she says, “this place is a zoo”.

It is more like a bear pit. The 2660 people, some of whom have paid up to $75 for a pair of tickets on the scalpers market, who make up the Garden’s SRO crowd have not come tonight to see boxing, they have come to see a collection of ex-boxers, bouncers, bikers and just plain palookas get into a ring and beat the hell of each other. It is exactly what they get. For instance:

Kelly Anderson, weighing in at 186 pounds takes on Frank Barton who tips the scales at a relatively light 168 pounds. Barton, who seems to be a friend of the Satan’s Angels, is badly outmatched by Anderson but Barton is the crowd’s favourite, Anderson is too pretty for their taste.

Barton takes a pummeling from Anderson in the first round. As they come out for the second, Anderson, who seems to know something of boxing etiquette, raises his gloves to touch gloves with Barton. Barton, evidently not one for formalities, forgoes touching gloves with Anderson and smashes him square in the face with a roundhouse right. Anderson reels back toward his corner. The crowd roars its approval.

In a special intermission fight for lightweights … Grindrod from Toronto do three rounds for a $200 purse. Except Grindrod does not go three rounds. In the middle of the second he retreats to his corner and brings up his dinner. The crowd roars its approval.

Mike “Buckwheat” Mitchel, at 204 pounds is pitted against 215 pound Jack Dombrowski. The fight goes well for Dombrowski until Mitchel succeeds in pushing him through the ropes. Dombrowski lands on his back and Mitchel, making the most of his opponents misfortune, leaps through the ropes after him. He lands a flurry of very nice combinations to the face of the prostrate Dombrowski. This pleases the crowd no end. It does, however, cause much consternation for Dombrowski’s trainer, who leaps on Mitchel and pulls him off his boy. The fight is awarded to Dombrowski. However, heated words are exchanged between the victor and members of the Satan’s Angels (who seem to be Mitchel’s sponsors) and Dombrowski and his trainer disappear into the night, never to be seen again.

Louis Richards, a 38 year old iron worker, is fighting to “prove he can still do it”. He has aspirations to be a professional hockey player, he says, but the Canucks “won’t even let me on the ice”. He is fighting Louie Torrao, a young biker from the Drake Hotel. It is Richard’s third fight and Torrao’s second and they are both exhausted. Richards already has a bad gash on his left cheek. He winces in pain every time Torrao lands a punch to his face. By the third round they are so tired they gulp for air like dying fish. The din from the crowd is deafening, exhorting them to finish each other off. Torrao, in one last surge of strength, spits his mouth guard onto the floor of the ring and launches himself at Richards. Richards is too tired to bring his arms up to protect his face. Pieces of skin fly off his cheek with each punch Torrao lands. The bell sounds; Torrao wins. Richards retreats to his corner, his face a lumpy wound. A young woman sitting at ringside, looks up at the exhausted Richards and very quietly, sobs.

Updated: April 22, 2014 — 11:19 pm