Edward James

Review: UK Comics Boxing, Fight for Kian, Blyth Sports Centre

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Punch Drunk Comedy, brainchild of Blyth brothers Gavin and Kai Humphries, has a solid reputation for pushing boundaries and bringing national names to its clubs in Ashington, Bedlington, and Blyth.

Now the boys have gone one better with UK comics boxing, the first event of its kind in the UK.

Presented in partnership with Millennium Martial Arts, UK Comic Boxing: Fight for Kian proved to be a mammoth undertaking, all in aid of Caring for Kian, the campaign to send Kian Musgrove to the US for much-needed cancer treatment that is not available in the UK.

The event attracted headline names and touring acts such as Rhod Gilbert, Jarred Christmas, Phil Nichol, Carl Donnelly, and Chris Martin, completely selling out the 800-seater arena at Blyth Sports Centre – surely making it one of the biggest ever independent comedy events in the North East.

Gilbert opens proceedings by asking if anyone has been to a boxing match before, and assuring that this will be nothing like that.

For anyone expecting quips from the fighters, the surprises start from the first bout, between Phil Nichol and Tom Houghton.

Following trash-talk videos that had previously been shared online, each competitor enters the ring with a dogged determination, and a seriousness rarely seen among comedy performers.

In this first bout, Nichol notably struggles with the fit of his headguard, and blames its effect on his vision for Houghton’s winning KO in the first round.

Next up are Matt Reed and Barry Dodds, equally matched as neither seem particularly fit at all, and this bout ends in similar style, Reed being declared the winner by KO.

In the third bout, between Carl Donnelly and Bobby Mair, the former’s slight frame and… also slight, agility spell a victory over Mair as the referee declares him too exhausted to complete the bout.

The following bout between Elliot Steel and Adam Rowe sees a different mood, matched by the lesser levity of the comedy commentary team, as both these fighters have been training for their fight, both determined to win and equally determined to do their best for the charitable cause.

This is the first bout to reach the end of the 3rd two-minute round, going to a decision by the judges who declare Elliot Steel victorious.

To Rowe’s credit, he steals the mic from Gilbert to tell everyone just how hard Steel has worked, and how deserved the victory is.

The heavier-weight pairing of Gavin Webster and Mark Nelson concludes, after the full 6 minutes, with a surprising victory for Webster.

Lastly – for the first half of this rather gruelling event – the only female bout, between the lightweight Penella Mellor and the last-minute replacement for Luisa Omelian, Nicola Mantalios-Lovett.

The latter has had very little time to train, or prepare, but comes out swinging and takes the early upper hand.

However after Mellor regains the advantage and Mantalios-Lovett is reprimanded for a feisty, illegal backhander, Nicola eventually declares herself “too fucked” to continue.

A short break in proceedings is punctuated by an exclusive and long awaited video comeback from Cramlington gangster characters Buzzcocks and Trekka, much to the delight of the local fans.

The pace of the bouts showed no sign of slowing after the interval, with John Hastings taking on Chris Martin, in a hilarious mis-match displaying an 84lb weight difference.

Martin incredibly lasts the three rounds – albeit largely in a unique sort of dancing foetal position – and is somewhat obviously declared the loser to the considerably more powerful Hastings.

In a better-thought-out weight pairing, Barry Castagnola takes on Jarred Christmas, both lasting three full rounds of alarming pacey action, with Castagnola eventually declared the winner.

The night’s tension drops slightly as – somewhat predictably for anyone who knows his reputation – Patrick Monahan arrives late to his bout against James Dowdeswell (the bout having already been moved around his double-up).

Following an equally long build up while Monahan seemingly hugs all 800 of the audience, followed by Dowdeswell in place of the glove-touch, the first round lasts just a few seconds as Monahan turns brutal and lands the most successful jab of the night, potentially breaking James’ nose, if Gilbert’s account of the medic is to be believed.

The penultimate bout of the night, going the distance again, is David Hadingham – who according the commentary team has “the face of a fighter” – versus Troy Hawk – who has “the physique, and ability of a fighter”.

Hawk displays impressive form against a seemingly far less able opponent, yet Hadingham jabs back hard and even gains the advantage at various points, before the judges declare Hawk the winner.

Finally, in a surprise appearance, the last bout of the night, and the culmination of months of work, is between Gavin and Kai themselves.

Precipitated by plenty of name-calling and ringside jibes about which brother their parents love more, the bout is three emotional rounds of headguard-less, brotherly battering.

The judges eventually declare, in what I suspect to be an honorable fix, a 29-29 draw between the exhausted pair.

All told between ticket sales, online donations to each fighter, merchandise, and cash collections, the night raised over £20,000 for Caring Kian – an incredible achievement but as Gavin says in his final thank you – a drop in the ocean compared with the £500,000 needed to send Kian for treatment.

The total fund for Kian at the time of writing is at 49% of its target, and your donations can be made easily at kapipal.com/caringforkian.

Date of live review: 7/2/2016