OPINION: Thriller on ice

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YOURWORD: Simon Green

Simon Green is the founder and co-organiser of Queenstowncharity boxing event Thriller in the Chiller

It may come as a surprise for many of you, but when we started Thriller in the Chiller back in 2010 it was never about the boxing.

Thriller was about taking participants on a journey that would not only challenge them and push them outside their comfort zones, but also show them what they’re capable of. To give them confidence in themselves both physically and mentally and after the event, win or lose, to make a significant contribution to their lives going forward.

When I look back, we did achieve these goals. And I remain extremely proud of what Thriller has achieved. In the past eight years more than 400 people have tried out for Thriller. We staged more than 80 bouts. More than 10,000 people attended the event. And more than $300,000 was raised for local charities. But our biggest achievement and the greatest testament to the unsung heroes of the event (our trainers) is that everyone finished their fights on their feet. Yes, some were a little battered and bruised, but everyone was able to go out and have a drink, enjoy the accolades of their supporters and at the end of the night go home to their loved ones and carry on with their lives.

Our focus from day one was on our contenders and doing everything we could to make sure their Thriller journey was both a positive and a safe one. This led us down a different path in the way we developed and refined our training programmes. For the most part it was basic common sense for us, but we definitely had our fair share of knockers. Despite that, we stuck to our guns and it’s reassuring that a number of other events are now following our lead.

That said, most are not. And it absolutely staggers me that some in the boxing fraternity still seem unwilling to acknowledge the risks involved, to fully accept the responsibility they bear for those taking part or to take some very obvious steps to minimise the potential for harm.

No boxing event is immune to the risks. People can be seriously hurt. People can be concussed. People can be knocked out. People can die. We took this very seriously and it was minimising the potential for harm that guided everything we did. But what we have learned is that despite your best efforts, there are some things you simply can’t manage for.

You can’t manage for the fact someone may have an unknown brain condition that could be severely impacted by an extended period of sparring, or even just a single knock to the head. You can’t manage for the fact that someone may be injured, may have suffered a heavy knock, may even be concussed, but doesn’t tell you and instead carries on training (or fighting) because they don’t want to let anyone down. You can’t manage for someone who goes outside your training programme and gets additional coaching in secret – not only cheating their opponent out of a fair fight, but worst of all, contributing to the risks we are forever trying to minimise.

And, while we are hopeful that the boxing fraternity will start acknowledging these risks and establish a protocol for all charity/corporate boxing events to follow, in the interim we don’t believe it would responsible for us to continue running Thriller and as such have put the event on hold indefinitely.

To the Queenstown community, our contenders, sponsors, charity partners, friends and the hundreds of you who have come out every year to show your support, we thank you. We didn’t want to let you down, but with everything as it currently stands, we simply don’t have any choice.

For me personally, over the past eight years I have grown to love boxing. I’ve watched in awe as our trainers taught the intricacies of what I now know to be the “sweet science”. I’ve watched the amazing development of our contenders and seen the changes they have made in their lives. I even had the pleasure of sparring with almost all of you – if I’m honest that’s what I’ll miss the most.

I don’t remember who won or lost their fights. I remember the great fights. I remember the people who defied all expectations. I remember the battlers who kept turning up each year, desperate to secure a match. I remember the people who wanted it for all the right reasons – they were the ones who got the most out of it.

But most of all I remember the light bulb moments when people discovered they weren’t as fragile as they may have once thought. That perhaps they were tougher than they’d ever given themselves credit for. And that they could each take those lessons forward into the rest of their lives and be stronger, better and more confident people for it.

So, while I’d love to think Thriller will be back at some time in the future, if not, that will be my enduring memory and I would like to think that it is also our legacy.