Thursday, January 26, 2012

australian jimmy sharman's boxing troupe

Marchant, Bob (1938 - ) Jimmy Sharman's boxing troupe (1996)

Memories of Jimmy Sharman's Boxing Stadium

The photograph below from the National Library of Australia really took me back. It shows Jimmy Sharman's boxing troupe at a country show in 1959.

The drum (centre) would start beating to draw the crowd. Those like my brother and I would be attracted by the noise, and come drifting across the rutted dusty ground towards the stand. There we would stand, while the spruker expounded the virtues of the fighters.

"Come on, come on, come on. Give it a go. Survive three rounds and we will give you five pounds."

Each fighter would be brought forward and introduced to the crowd. "Surely some of you blokes can beat him. Three rounds, five pounds." The locals would hold up their hands and be called into the stand to be fitted out.

Inside we got near the ring, sat and waited on the hard seats while the dust motes drifted in the sunlight streaming down onto the ring. The fighters were brought out and introduced, the troupe fighter and then the local challenger. The bell sounded, and the fight began.

In today's terms it would all seem quite brutal, although we did not see it that way. It was just sport. It was only when fights were completely unbalanced that it became cruel.

Generally the locals were outclassed and it was over quite quickly. The local retired bearing his scars to the beer tent, there to stand in glory with his friends for giving it a go. However, there was one fight I remember that did not go according to plan.

The troupe boxer was a young, good looking, blonde bloke. He ran up against a very tough local who cut him to pieces. By mid way through the second round the troupe boxer's face was bruised and cut, his lips smashed. He kept going, but the crowd started to call for an end to the fight. It was no longer sport.

I actually saw a fair bit of boxing. Yes, I am aware of the health risks, but I am glad that I did see Jimmy Sharman's touring stadium before new regulations forced an end to the shows.

Jimmy Sharman's Boxing Troupe followed the show circuit through four states for six decades of working 11 months a year. In each town and city Sharman snr charged spectators to watch young black boxers teach half-cut local challengers to fight.

"Who'll take a glove?" and "A round or two for a pound or two" were famous Sharman catchcries.

Sharman jnr inherited what was "a bloody good business" a decade before his father died in 1965. He continued touring until 1971, when regulations barring boxers fighting more than once a week knocked the business out. In later years he reminisced about the show life. "They had so many freaks it wasn't funny," Sharman said. "There used to be Zimmy the Legless Wonder … Used to eat bananas under water … Zandau the Quarter Boy, Tam Tam the Leopard Man."

Australian Champion George Bracken's career started at Sharman's tents, he later progressed to professional boxing and went as far as contender for the British Empire Lightweight title.

George peaked his career in boxing when he beat Johnny Van Rensburg Aug 1959 after he had lost the British Empire Welterweight title to Aussie George Barnes in 1958.

Like his father, Sharman had one son, called James. Jim Sharman went into showbusiness but not the boxing tent. The Sydney theatre producer won world acclaim when he co-wrote and directed The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975.

Fred Brophy insists he will continue travelling with his tent boxing troupe, until he dies, even though the sport was banned in 1971 by the government, due to health concerns.

Final bell for showman Jimmy Sharman

The Age

April 26, 2006 - 6:46AM
Jimmy Sharman, the man who inherited his father's famous boxing troupe, has died aged 94.

Sharman died at Sydney's St Vincent Hospice on Monday.

Born James Michael Sharman in the Riverina town of Narrandera in 1912, his father James snr had established his colourful Sharman's Boxing Troupe at the Royal Easter Show a year earlier.

The troupe formed part of the Australian Show landscape for more than seven decades.

Sharman spent a week working in the ticket office for his father at the show in 1926, before turning his attention to rugby league.

As well as captaining Wests, he played seven seasons for the Magpies between 1934-1940.

But illness led him back to his father's tent in 1945 and he toured with the troupe, which often involved young black boxers teaching half-cut local challengers to fight.

His famous catchcries included "Who'll take a glove?" and "A round or two for a pound or two".

Sharman inherited the family business in 1955 and toured until 1971, when regulations barring boxers fighting more than once a week came into place.

The Sharman fame was later captured in a song by rock band Midnight Oil in the mid 1980s, titled Jimmy Sharman's Boxers.

"Fighting in the spotlight/Eyes turn blacker than their skin," the song says.

"For Jimmy Sharman's boxers/It's no better if you win".

Sharman had one son, also called James.

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