Brave stand-in Vinny takes one for the charity team


AGAINST THE ODDS:As the bell dinged, and Brennie sprung from his stool towards the centre of the ring, Vinny Fitzpatrick felt like Burgess Meredith from the Rocky movies. “Go on Brennie, moider da bum,” he shouted in half-jest.

From his pitch by the corner, Vinny had a worm’s eye view of the opening bout in the ‘Blue Collar Fight Night’, a charity fund-raiser in aid of the Central Remedial Clinic.

His fleshy face shiny with anticipation, Vinny was taking his responsibility as the ‘cuts’ man in earnest and had, close to hand, a bucket of cold water, sponge, towel, Vaseline and a fistful of cotton swabs.

All the serious stuff, the busted noses, grazed eyes, split lips and knock-outs, he would leave to Bones Brogan.

That the ‘Fight Night’ idea was the brainchild of Charlie St John Vernon was rather rich, as Charlie was no more a blue collar worker than Bill Gates.

But Charlie’s deep pockets had covered the Monday evening hire of the parochial hall in St Gabriel’s, insurance against injury, and, crucially, the post-fight jar in Foley’s.

A surprising number of elbow-resters had put themselves forward for a night of pugilism in aid of a worthy cause – the CRC was close to all hearts in Dublin 3.

There were a couple of conditions attached. No one over 50 was allowed compete, which Fran felt was discriminatory, while all aspiring contestants had to receive a clean bill of health from Bones. Of the lads, only Brennie was eligible.

Long list

“Steve Collins isn’t the only 48-year-old ducking under the ropes,” he grinned after passing his medical.

Charlie Vernon had a long list of candidates, some of whom were unsuitable such as Moscow Boris, the chess grandmaster from the lounge, who wanted to use his teeth rather than his hands.

Charlie whittled the final field down to 16, who would each stump up €200 for the CRC for the privilege of getting their blocks knocked off. The weights of the fighters ranged from welter to super-heavy where Ronan ‘Rockfist’ Rooney, a lorry driver from Black Banks, would carry star billing.

In his youth, Rockfist had sparred with Kevin McBride in Boston, prior to the famous win by the ‘Clones Colossus’ over Mike Tyson.

Rockfist was in his early 40s and sported a beer belly that hadn’t come cheap. He had an aura about him that always ensured a stool in Foley’s, even on busy nights.

“He’s one grizzly bear you don’t want to bate,” thought Vinny who feared for his old fire brigade mucker, Big Dave, who’d agreed to tackle Rockfist.

As Charlie Vernon stoked up the crowd with fiery rhetoric, the musty old hall quickly filled to the rafters and Vinny was taken aback by the number of females in the audience. And they made themselves heard too. When Brennie landed a right in Spider’s ribs in the opening round, sending the ex-jockey crumpling to the canvas, a tiny woman of mature years sprang from her seat.

Round one

“Get off your backside Celsus and give him a dig,” screamed a woman Vinny recognised as Spider’s Ma – only his mother ever called him Celsus.

At the end of round one, there was a macho cheer as Petra from Fran’s launderette climbed into the ring, brandishing a placard with the round number on it.

In a shiny blue leotard, the statuesque vixen from Vilnius looked like she’d wandered off the set Wonder Woman.

As she got to Vinny’s corner, Petra leaned towards the bus driver busy tending to Brennie. “You can wash me down with a sponge any time, Vinny,” she said seductively.

Vinny was worried about Brennie lasting the distance. The bank official was wiry and light on his feet but lacked the stamina of Spider, a former flat jockey.

By the end of round two, Brennie was way off the pace. His lip was a burst sausage and his ribs stung. “Throw in the towel, Vinny,” he panted. “I want to be able to enjoy me pints tonight.” Vinny flung a white cloth into the ring, where it was greeted by a mixture of boos and cheers. Brennie and Spider embraced, and the latter’s arm was raised by Charlie Vernon.

Heaved and groaned

For the next hour or so, the old hall heaved and groaned as the pub’s protagonists laid into one another. After eight bouts of the sweet science came the finale, the super-heavyweight clash between Rockfist and Big Dave.

An air of expectancy descended as Charlie Vernon made the introductions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid the last fight has had to be cancelled,” he intoned.

“Before anyone asks, Big Dave has not got cold feet, he’s been called to a fire on the North Strand. As we have no other takers, I’m awarding Rockfist a walk-over.”

To a chorus of catcalls, Charlie Vernon made to leave the ring, via Vinny’s corner. “Charlie, there’ll be a lynching,” whispered the portly bus driver. “You can’t build them up then leave them hanging.”

Charlie shrugged. “Who’d be mad enough to go one round, let alone three, with Rockfist?” he asked.

“I would,” said Vinny, as he clambered between the ropes and beckoned Brennie over. “Fetch us your gloves, padded helmet and gum shield.”.

As jeers turned to cheers, Petra reappeared in the ring. She raised Vinny’s flabby right arm and pointed at his beefy chest. “Vinny, Vinny,” she began to chant, encouraging others to join in.

By the time Brennie arrived back with the gear, the crowd was rooting for the 55-year-old veteran of the wheel. “It’s like the Colosseum,” said Brennie. “Yeah, and I am about to be slaughtered,” replied a doleful Vinny.

The ‘fight’ was mercifully brief. For the first ten seconds, Vinny tried to imagine he was up against the brute Lugs O’Leary, oily Roger Winstone, or his latest enemy, the wretched Roberto.

It was no use. He was in against Rockfist, who taunted him like a lion circling a stricken wildebeest.

Rockfist could have rearranged Vinny’s nose, split his lip or busted his jaw but he showed charity and went for the rabbit punch instead, a short jab in the ribs – Vinny collapsed like a cheap suit.

As he lay on the canvas, staring at the overhead lights and gasping, he became aware of a tall shape blocking out the beam. It was Petra.

She knelt down and tenderly lifted Vinny’s heavy head, cradling it into her generous bosom. “Take it easy, Vincent. You stay there as long as you like,” she purred. It was some time before Vinny stirred.

Vinny’s Bismarck

2pt Lay England to beat Ireland (Evens, William Hill, liability 2pts)

Bets of the week

2pts Republic of Ireland to beat Poland (13/8, Paddy Power)

1pt ew Webb Simpson in AT T National Pro-am (35/1, Betway)

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