Thriller boxing coach opens up on contender collapse

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The boxing trainer behind Queenstown’s Winter Festival charity fight night has broken his silence on the collapse of a contestant following a sparring session. 

Darryl Giddens – Queenstown’s only certified boxing coach – says he’s “devastated” one of the Thriller in the Chiller contenders needed an emergency brain operation after keeling over during a boot camp workout at the Events Centre. 

Southland Times reporter Grant Bryant has been recovering at Dunedin Hospital following surgery hours after his collapse last Friday morning. Mountain Scene understands the operation was to deal with brain bleeds. 

“I’ve been involved in boxing for more than 20 years and it’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this happen,” Giddens, 35, says. 

“I feel terrible for Grant. It was just horrible and the last thing anyone expected. It was a bit of a freak accident but it’s definitely not good.” 

Like everyone else taking part in the session, Bryant had chosen not to wear protective headgear while doing light sparring for the event sanctioned by the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association. 

Tom O’Connor, president of the sport’s amateur body Boxing NZ, told The Southland Times it’s “most unwise” for social fighters not to wear headgear while sparring. 

Queenstown Boxing Gym boss Giddens says training will be stepped up later this week meaning head guards will become compulsory for the 50 locals competing to make the final cut of 20. 

Winter Festival boss Simon Green says that despite Bryant’s ordeal, “at no time” was the event close to being scrapped. 

“What happened to Grant is of course very upsetting for everyone involved,” Green says. 

“But since last year’s Thriller we have run four other busy boot camps to fine-tune our training and safety procedures and never had a problem like this. 

“The well-being of our contestants is paramount and quite a few of the guys who took part last year have continued with their boxing training.” 

Mountain Scene editor Ryan Keen, who is among contenders for Thriller, says Bryant’s collapse was “scary”.
“It shakes you up a bit and makes you think twice about what you’re doing – but it is being run very professionally.” 

Keen paid Bryant a social visit in Dunedin Hospital two days after his surgery and says it was a relief to see him in good spirits. 

“He looked a sight with his head very swollen and right eye completely closed over but he was smiling and talking away quite happily. He told me to wish the rest of the contenders all the best and said he’d look forward to watching from the sidelines.”