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We take a trip to a pro-boxing brawl.
By Hannah Wallace
Well, mark this down as a new experience: We went to a pro boxing match on Friday.
The “Ballroom Brawl” is a semi-regular event featuring professional boxers (usually from the west coast area and around the state) held in the ballroom of a Tampa hotel—in this case, the Westshore Doubletree. Aaron Jaco, a pro boxer himself and the guy who tries to whip CCB, Big J and me into shape over at Uppercut Fitness, told us about the event earlier in the week.
Aaron’s twin brother, Adam, was fighting in the “co-main event.” In a ballroom, mind you. I really had no idea what to expect. Would this be like the fights you see on TV, or some makeshift, backyard fight club? Would there be glamorous people there all gussied up for the event, fratty jackasses, or a collection of random training partners?
Answer? Well, a little bit of everything.
Actually, it seemed like kind of a big deal. The hotel was abuzz—I’m not sure if that was all about the fight, but it seemed to be generating a decent crowd, especially for $20 general admission. And oh, what a crowd: There was definitely a large percentage of the female crowd in killer heels, jangly jewelry and boob-revealing tops. (I’d thought this was a possibility and considered taking a stab at that level of dress, but frankly, I would’ve just looked like a teetering moron. Nine times out of 10, I opt for comfortable and woefully underdressed, rather than aiming too high and coming up awkward.) There were massive guys in hoodies and baggy pants, others all Ed Hardy-ed out, and even one guy whose style I immediately labeled “douchetastic."
Dave Jaco, Aaron and Adam's father, was there, too. We've never met him before, but he's not hard to spot: At 6'6", the former heavyweight contender had a lengthy career that included fights against George Foreman and Mike Tyson. Top Dog Tom likes to talk about how he saw Dave Jaco fight Buster Douglas at Robarts Arena, right before Douglas became a superstar.
The Ballroom Brawl venue itself was exciting and legit, while still being cozy enough that we didn’t need binoculars. First couple of fights didn’t seem to grab anyone’s attention—though, man, it must be weird to be up there above the crowd, with the lights on you, and hearing the music cut out, the bell ring, and you’re left with the faintest murmur from the crowd while you try not to get your head knocked off.
Alas, the first kid, a 129-pounder in his first ever pro fight, did not succeed in that particular respect. He hit the mat less than a minute in, and that was that for his debut.
Speaking of inauspicious pro debuts, a Tampa heavyweight demonstrated such an awkward stance and weak, wide punches that CCB and Big J decided on the spot to become pro boxers. “Hell, if that’s all it takes,” they agreed. And the guy earned a draw, even.
Further down the card, though, the fights were impressive, which is fun to watch, even if good boxing lessens the likelihood of, y’know, blood and stuff.
When Adam Jaco’s super middleweight bout came up, we finally had a reason to scream and shout in support of someone. (Not that we were alone; he had most of the crowd for him.) He won the decision handily.
When you come to a sport or hobby after you’re well into adulthood, and you practice at it in a laid-back manner and without a concrete goal, it’s great to wake up every once in a while and see it performed exquisitely and all-out. That simplicity is the beauty of sports, and of competition at a higher level—when the rules are clearly defined and the point is to win, you can turn off neuroses and really measure how far you can get with unadulterated effort. The Sweet Science is the epitome of that wonderful simplicity, where the point is to win, and you win by punching the other guy. Hard.
Adam signs an autograph after his win.
After the fights, CCB and I stood around in the lobby enjoying an adult beverage while Adam and Aaron's entourage decided where to go. Dave Jaco momentarily settled in at a nearby table, so we celebrity-stalked him a little as he poured a can of Pepsi into a glass. CCB began to say that he was disappointed the man was "only" drinking Pepsi, but before he could get the words out, Jaco pulled a flask from his inside coat pocket and baptized his soda. "I like him," CCB declared. Dave Jaco looked up and grinned, "I can't afford the drinks here."
I think I'm gonna like this sport.