Posted by Henry Barnes, Membershp and Support Officer on 12 November 2013
The warm ambience of the conference suite at the Royal Bath Hotel sheltered us from the stiff sea breeze and a cold autumn’s evening in Bournemouth. Chandeliers, hanging from the arched ceiling above, softly illuminated the expectant audience. Our compère began to introduce the event and was instantly drowned out by the cheering and applause of an eager crowd. We welcomed tonight’s pugilists to the ring amid whooping and whistling. Each was introduced to their opponent, shook hands and left the ring; twelve fights, 24 fighters, one championship belt. This was the Battle of Bournemouth 3.
Hayley White, Meningitis Research Foundation member and co-organiser of this evening’s entertainment, took to the ring for the second fight of the night. Her opponent looked fierce with long braids and a stony glare. Hayley removed her Meningitis Research Foundation t-shirt to reveal her vest for tonight; dark green, emblazoned with the House of Pain Gym logo. Across her back, the words ‘Billy – this is for you son’. In December, 2008, Hayley tragically lost her son, Billy Joe White, to meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia at just 6 months of age. It was in memory of her boy that Hayley donned her gloves and, an explosive 3 rounds later, left the ring the victor.
At about the midway point in the evening Hayley got back into the ring, still wearing her boxing regalia and now sporting a scratch on her cheek and a split lip. To my enormous embarrassment, Hayley looked in my direction and beckoned me into the ring where I was presented with a cheque for £280, which turned out later to be a small portion of the total money raised. I stepped out of the ring, flushed with embarrassment, the raffle was drawn and the night went on.
The champagne flowed and the sport continued in good spirit until our last bout for the championship belt which was defended by Jon Martin of the House of Pain Gym. The bout got off to a slow start but after both fighters settled in to their groove and took a few hits to the head, each began to loosen up. By the fourth and final round the boxing was first rate and both fighters landed some heavy blows. The bell rang and each boxer felt confident of a win, raising their gloves in a triumphant show. Points were added up, boxers brought to the middle of the ring and the announcement was made; Jon Martin of the House of Pain successfully defended his belt and the championship was his.
The crowd quickly dissipated as the evening’s sport drew to a close. All that remained were the fighters and their families sharing a moment’s calm after the storm, and a moment’s silence for Billy Joe White.