Monday, March 31, 2008

Rumble in Senayan

Last week, a friend invited me to attend a charity boxing evening at the Istora Arena in Senayan. Now Indonesian boxing, like Indonesian airlines, currently has a rather poor reputation amongst the international community at large and for broadly similar reasons.

Over the years a total of 19 local boxers have died as a direct result of their bouts and various World Boxing Council bans have been imposed upon Indonesia. As with the continuing Indonesian airlines saga (which are currently banned from European airspace) poor safety procedures and professional negligence have been cited as the main reasons for the ban.

And so to celebrate the demise of Adam Air and also due to the fact that I've never actually seen anyone die at a charity event before, I decided to trot along to Senayan to cheer on several bouts of face punching, brain hemorrhaging fun.

I managed to shamble through the wrong entrance however and found myself in an upstairs area of the crowd, firmly ensconced in a group of itinerant Extra Joss salesmen (the night's sponsors) who, resplendent in their bright yellow T-shirts, were cheering and braying the opening fight with gusto.There*s nothing like a good boxing match to fire up that male bloodlust and testosterone.

After 15 minutes or so I decided to head down to the ringside section for a glass of ale and a schmooze with the assembled members of the bourgeoisie. I spied a few familiar faces including Hawaiian hunk and newsreader extraordinaire, Dalton Tanaka. I also ran into an old friend of mine from my days at Djakarta* Magazine (ah, memories) who informed me that he is now working at ME Magazine (which apparently stands for Male Emporium, let's hope that ME sufferers don't get the wrong end of the stick). He also told me that his publication had supplied the very comely young ladies who were strutting around the ring holding aloft the forthcoming round numbers to gratuitous cheers and wolf whistles from the Extra Joss boys.

I took a seat and immediately wondered why ringside is considered the place to be at boxing matches. The view of the action is severely compromised by the ropes. I briefly considered returning to the superior view afforded in the Extra Joss section before realizing that beer was being served down at VIP ringside ground zero. Not so hasty Simon.

So, onto the boxing. I feel it only fitting though that we turn to the legendary Muhammed Ali for a few words of inspiration first. The great man was once heard to say of his sport, "It*s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up". Ali also once said that, "My toughest fight was with my first wife". Sentiments I'm sure that we can all get behind. As the beers slipped down I felt myself being drawn into the fight spectacle.

The second bout of the evening was a very closely fought battle between local boy Aswin Cabuy and Sam Colomban from Cameroon. It was a keenly contested fight that went the full distance and which was further enlivened by the ME girls getting their cards mixed up enabling round 4 to happen before round 3.

In the end there was a split decision in favor of the local lad. The African boy seemed to think he'd been robbed and frankly so did I. I guess though that a notoriously corrupt sport being held in a notoriously corrupt country didn't really bode well for an impartial decision from the judges. A few Extra Joss Rupiah in plain, brown envelopes may possibly have been passed around before the evening got underway.

There then followed a break from the boxing. We were treated to an exhibition bout of Cacoy Doce Pares. This is a sport every bit as ludicrous as its name suggests. Grown men don Darth Vader type helmets and whack each other frenziedly with thin strips of wood. It was quite the most ridiculous thing that I*ve ever witnessed under the name of sport. After 10 minutes the fight was halted and one of the combatants was declared the winner, for reasons that remain unclear to me. Perhaps his Lord Vader impression had been the more convincing.

After our galactic empire interlude it was time for more boxing. In our top of the bill fight, local bruiser Bambang Rusiadi made mincemeat of Thai challenger Dechapon Suwannalert. There was no need to consult the judges on this one as the plucky Thai terrier hit the canvas. Another victory for Indonesia. Merdeka la**