The man behind Queenstown Winter Festival’s new boxing extravaganza says safety needs to improve next year.
Winter Festival director Simon Green’s admission comes in internal emails leaked to Mountain Scene.
In the emails, Green says: “The one thing that is the most important above everything else is the safety and well-being of all those people who put themselves forward to participate and when multiple sources are telling me we didn’t do well enough in this regard – I have to take that on board and make what I believe to be the necessary changes.”
The Thriller in the Chiller fight night – sponsored by Mountain Scene – pitted 18 granite-jawed locals with little or no previous experience against each other after months of fitness and boxing training.
The amateurs – including a female match-up – slugged it out in nine bruising bouts in front of a 1400-strong crowd, fundraising a whopping $43,000 – the lion’s share went to Wakatipu charity the Bruce Grant Youth Trust.
No serious injuries were sustained, but Green makes it clear in the emails the training regime needs to change.
“As was made very clear to me by other independent parties from whom I sought advice, we didn’t have the formula right,” Green emails.
“From go to woe, we simply did not push [participants] hard enough.”
Green tells Mountain Scene: “Right through the process it became clear the guys weren’t as fit as they potentially could have or should have been going into the boxing part of the training.”
Next year Green’s looking to put a larger pool of locals through a longer fitness-focused boot camp – likely to be at least five weeks – prior to serious sparring. Final contestants will be chosen for at least eight more weeks of intensive boxing training and fitness sessions.
Green says Thriller isn’t just about boxing, but ensuring participants become fitter, healthier and more confident individuals.
“It is about making sure the guys are looked after, the match-ups are fair, that everyone gets as much as they can out of the programme.
“While we made a start on this in 2010, we can do better – a lot better,” he adds.
The leaked emails also reveal Green was “gobsmacked” to learn the rookies were using 12-ounce boxing mitts to spar – instead of thicker 16oz or 18oz gloves.
“It’s little wonder why so many of them got injured in those early stages,” Green emails.
Fight Science Gym owner Braden Lee, where this year’s Thriller training took place, says it wasn’t up to him to monitor which gloves were used.
“I was there to take care of the fitness. It was really up to [boxing coach Darryl Giddens]. We had ample supply of 16oz gloves, it was just up to whether they took the time to swap gloves around before they got in the ring.”
Giddens, who was subcontracted by Lee, claims the quality of the gloves was questionable and 18oz or 20oz gloves should’ve been on-hand for ring work.
Lee disagrees there were safety concerns, saying it’s a contact sport.
“When you’re hitting each other in the head and in the body you’re going to get hurt regardless how much training you have.”