"There Will Be Blood!" the dramatic posters assured us as we walked into York Hall, the Mecca of London boxing, for The Real Fight Club's evening of 'white-collar' boxing on Friday.
Punters gathered in the bar, which had a distinctly cosy local sports club feel, and anticipation was at fever pitch as the time for the first fight drew closer. The crowd was an eclectic mix of young professionals, battle-scarred bruisers, glamorous East End beauties, swarthy geezers and curious first timers. Drink in hand, enthusiastic fans shadowboxed and loudly dissected previous bouts they'd witnessed in this historic venue.
The fight card finally got underway, with the opening bout an entertaining scrap between crowd favourite Cyril 'Big D' Derveloy and Nick 'Big Bad Red' Carroll, facing off in the first of 11 fights. The riotous atmosphere erupted into frenzy between the two minute rounds, as a Dita Von Teese inspired round card girl flirted with the crowd. Brutal yet highly skilled boxers displayed incredible fitness, poise and courage in the cauldron of the arena, as punters roared their approval with each meaty slap of leather glove on flesh.
Each side of the arena erupted as local favourites battled the invaders from rival clubs. Patrons shouted instructions from the balcony, leapt to their feet and screamed encouragement (or abuse) from their seats ringside. Above all however, the thing that impressed us most about the fighters is their camaraderie and respect for their opponent once the final bell rings, regardless of what horrific blows were dealt or received during the bout. Hands were shaken and all was forgiven.
The title fight arrived as the crowd's thirst for blood reached its peak in the latter stages of the evening. Alex 'Smart' Bagaciov, the challenger, defeated defending champion Andy 'The Machine' Vango in a four round epic battle, and the new champion was awarded his belt to the noisy approval of the satisfied crowd.
Despite the violence dished out for them, the crowd is well behaved, the atmosphere is electric, and the evening played out without a hitch. Quality boxing was on display at The Real Fight Club, an entertaining spectacle for both boxing enthusiasts and curious first time spectators. And, as the posters promised, there was plenty of blood spilled on the canvas.
By Ryan Hutchinson.
You can learn to box at The Real Fight Club near Liverpool Street Station. Find out more.