The Boxing Troupe (A Poem About Travelling Tent Boxing)

Bell's Touring Stadium
Bell's Touring Stadium | Source
Brophy's Boxing Troupe
Brophy's Boxing Troupe | Source
The Cowboy
The Cowboy | Source

The Boxing Troupe

"Step up, step up

Tent boxing's the game,

If you can fight,

Come make your name.

Meet the Cowboy,

Still to be beat

After 12 long years

Not once off his feet.

Do I see a challenger,

Just one likely lad?

If you just go the distance

The money's not bad.

Strut for the ladies,

Show them your might.

Impress with your bravery,

It could be your night.

You Sir in the back,

You appear a strong man.

Step up to the ring,

Please give him a hand.

How much do you weigh Sir?

Two hundred, you say,

The Cowboy's much lighter

He could lose today."

Tent Boxing in Australia

From the late 19th Century boxing troupes of professional fighters would travel the mining towns and outback Australia, following fairs and carnivals, putting up big top tents and taking on all-comers for cash in the ring.

The most famous of these boxing troupes, are the ones created by Roy Bell and Jimmy Sharman. Only three tents still travel today, Roy Bell's Touring Stadium, The Oldest Original Boxing Tent- Est 1924 & Owned and Operated by Michael Karaitiana (grandson of Roy Bell). Michael still currently tours with Roy Bell's Touring Stadium throughout Queensland, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory.

Fred Brophy's, who owns the Cracow Hotel in Queensland, still takes his troupe throughout Queensland.

Aubrey Ribbons Jr owns Blue Ribbons Boxing .This is the only boxing tent troupe to travel outside Queensland or the Northern Territory, making its way through New South Wales and Tasmania.

Because of health and safety concerns the future tent boxing is limited and when the current owners retire there will probably be no more. Injuries are largely unreported, though fights are usually stopped if a challenger looks like being badly hurt Little is known about early tent boxers and events due to participants and spectators being largely illiterate and even in modern times, very few photographs exist as organisers disapprove of media involvement due to the sport being controversial.

Fred Brophy insists he will continue travelling with his tent boxing troupe, until he dies, even though the sport was banned in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia in 1971 by the government, due to health concerns


But the grin on his face

And the fighter's wink back,

Said we've been here before

Let's give him a crack.

The crowd cheered their local,

The first round was close.

Both dodging and weaving,

But few punches thrown.

The second round started

At the sound of a gong.

The Cowboy was acting

He urged his foe on.

The young man threw a punch

That missed by a mile.

The cowboy ducked sideways

His face cracked a smile.

With a flurry of jabs

And a right to the chin

The cowboy attacked,

And the towel was thrown in.

"Good effort young fellow,

You gave it a go.

Most don't last the first round,

So don't feel too low.

A hand for your local boy,

Ladies and gents.

He did the town proud,

'Gainst the champ of the tents.

Crowd, Birdsville tent boxing.
Crowd, Birdsville tent boxing. | Source
Another likely challenger.
Another likely challenger. | Source
Boxing tent, Gundagai Show
Boxing tent, Gundagai Show | Source

Now meet the next fighter,

Come, who'll take him on?

Surely there's one man,

Who's agile and strong."

The show must go on

As it moves town to town.

Brave locals step up

But most get knocked down.

Just two or three fight troupes

In Australia still roam.

They travel the outback

A long way from home.

But if they may come

To a town that you know

Calling "Step up, step up"

Will you give it a go?


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Comments 25 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well done, John! This type of boxing has a rich tradition in the U.S. as well; I remember stories told by my dad about the boxing troupe that came to town.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

It's always interested me too Bill. My dad also told me tales about the visiting boxing troupes and even being encouraged to fight himself. Thanks for your kind comment. I read that it has been made illegal now in USA and Britain, and is only still allowed in two Australian states...Queensland and Northern Territory.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

John, one look at my face will show I did not fare so well by stepping up. But ah yes the ladies did fall for it!

Great hub, awesome writing. Thank you.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Eric, glad you enjoyed. Yes I always preferred to watch then participate...well as much as possible.Though one of my sons is a top 10 ranked Muay Thai kickboxer.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Great job! We have a long lost tradition here of this as well, as well as traveling rodeos and other traveling competitions that allow local people to join in the competition. Most of it has long disappeared. Your photos enhance the story. Loved this!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

Jodah, what a creative entertaining piece.. reminded me of the bare-knuckle fights.. yeah voted awesome bro :)

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

Well written and so well illustrated, too.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Flourish, glad you loved this one. It's always been something I've had an interest in, so why not write a piece about it.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey Frank, Thanks for the awesome vote. Glad you enjoyed. Yeah, though the bare knuckle fights were more brutal and kept going until one fighter couldn't carry on. These guys use oversize gloves so no one gets hurt too badly.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your kind comment Blossom. Glad you enjoyed it.

Mary McShane profile image

Mary McShane 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Oh Jodah, I really liked this one. The video was a good asset to the poem too. I was born in Florida but spent some time in Boston and Philadelphia as a young teen. Both cities are famous for their boxing, from local level to state competitions. Your poem brought back thoughts of a time I had forgotten. Good job. :)

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Glad to hear that Mary, it's good when a piece of writing can evoke good memories from the past. I thought mainly men would find this interesting, but it appears the ladies enjoy it too. Thank you for your kind comments.

ocfireflies profile image

ocfireflies 3 years ago from North Carolina


The meter you used captured the event you were describing perfectly. Another "Knockout." Smiles. V+/Share


markdarmafall profile image

markdarmafall 3 years ago from Moundsville,WV

I loved this. It reminded me of growing up and the local fair in my hometown. We used to have boxing during it and it was so much fun to watch. Great hub


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey Kim,

Thank you my friend. Thanks for the approval of the meter, I thought it fit the theme ok. Your a knockout yourself.. ;)

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Glad you enjoyed it Mark, and it brought back memories. Thanks for the comments.

Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Hey Jodah i liked this so much, i really love boxing, i actually trained for 3 months with a boxing team when i was younger but an injury in my angle forced me to stop..

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey mike, thanks for reading and glad you could relate. Shame about the ankle and having to stop boxing, but I guess it gave you more time to write.

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Clever, Jodah. But I won't give it a go. Couldn't fight my way out of a paper sack. :)

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Haha drbj....we can't all be fighters, some have got to be writers, and you are the champ at that. Thanks for your comment, always appreciated.

wayne barrett profile image

wayne barrett 3 years ago from Clearwater Florida

That's a hell-of-a-livin' to make. Great piece and I enjoyed the video.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

I agree Wayne, but it's part of our culture and it's still popular so hopefully keeps on going. Thanks for your comment And glad you enjoyed the video.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

What a entertaining post, I felt as if I was watching it all happen. Boxing, though brutal, reminds us of our early start in sports. My dad used to watch the Friday night fights.. those were the days.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi teaches,

Thanks for your comments. It's great to remember the early days even though life was tougher it was somehow more innocent. Boxing maybe a somewhat brutal sport but these tent fights use oversized gloves and no one ever gets badly injured. It is still popular here in Australia in the states where it is still legal as A relic of our past that still survives.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

If anyone is still following this hub I have added a new video and additional information to try to raise the score.

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