Out and a ‘Bout’ In Favoriten
Local fighters duke it out for glory and the spirit of combat
"You’re going to lick blood," declared the reservation for the Night of the Raging Bulls boxing match. No, this was not my idea of a typical Friday night in Vienna.
The location of the showdown was not revealed until the night before. Walking down a long, empty street behind Reumannplatz on a rainy, crisp night, I came to the venue within earshot of the Autobahn. Normally a site for Turkish weddings, the KRAL salon had been transformed into Las Vegas style boxing arena with the ring in the middle, a stage on the left, projectors casting a red hue with boxing motifs across the room and even a plastic statue of Evander Holyfield in the foyer.
The attendees possessed the accouterments of somewhere between a Vegas freak show and a 1920s speakeasy: flappers in hip-hugging fringed dresses with long necklaces and cloche hats, and Hunter S. Thompson look-alikes in plaid trilby hats and flashy necklaces. To the side, a DJ in a jumper spun tunes as the spectators arrived. When the show began, an outrageous MC in leopard-skin tights with a pot belly protruding out of a St. Nicolas cloak announced the opening entertainment: a lip-pursing, guitar-licking, amp-standing, black-clad, goth-punk band called the Surfaholics.
I had come in support of one of the fighters, Schlachthaus Seppi, whose mother, brother and friends were also in attendance. Standing at the ringside, the anxious mother leaned over to me and said, "I’m nervous," as the MC bellowed, "Are you fucking ready to rumble?"
The band ripped into their first tune, sending the MC into a gyrating, at times raunchy, dance in the ring. With his bug-eyed shades and a headband harnessing his hirsute mop, he obviously had no reputation to uphold. As one observer remarked, "Until I see some fighting, this is just a circus."
After the band finished their half-hour set, a clean-cut Viennese announcer in a white tuxedo stepped into the ring. "Wer hat Lust auf Blut?" resonated through the hall as he yelled into the microphone. Who wants blood? I wasn’t particularly keen on seeing anyone I knew with a bloodied face; Seppi’s mother certainly wasn’t.
The match-ups themselves didn’t quite have the mystique of the "Rumble in the Jungle" or the "Thrilla in Manila," but each of the contenders was serious about winning. The first two opponents entered the ring for the introduction and weight-in on a rickety scale. The opening fight pitted Hell Mob, a 34-year old whose poster showed him holding a skateboard with his teeth, and the Man Ohne Freunde, apparently a man without any friends. The following fight would be between two women; the Vampire Princess whose promotional video showed her running through the woods fighting off wolves with her fangs; and a tall Austrian discovered at a Wurstlstand according to her video.
Slaughterhouse Seppi’s introduction was by far the most raucous, the fighter accompanied by a throng of Rapid Wien supporters and their soccer chants. Trained in martial arts, the 25-year old possessed the spirit of combat that incorporates respect and value of the opponent into the affair. This was his first boxing match.
After the presentation and weigh-in the other characters of the show took the stage: the two promoters in butterfly collars and gelled hairdos, the quasi-angelic referee dressed in white, and the boob-job barbie holding the signs for each round.
The first fight began at the stroke of midnight. The crowd pressed in as the punches flew. At the end of the first round, there was a clear advantage for the MOF. Wearing red trunks, Hell Mob showed signs of fatigue, needing a count and lots of water during the break. Blood finally flowed in the third round as the man-in-red’s nose resigned. By the fourth round the fight was ruled over. The winner was decided by audience applause, and the decibel reading clearly favored the MOF. Seppi’s brother pointed out, "oh, by the way, they’re friends."
With one more fight before her son’s, Seppi’s mother showed signs of anxiety, pacing around and wearing a worried look on her face.
As the female boxers stepped into the ring, a nearby woman in a wheelchair next to the ring pointed to the Vampire Princess and said, "I like the German girl." But the Austrian, K. Nette Pikante, proved to be the more convincing contender, displaying great technique in a fight that fell easily and obviously in her favor according to the decibel meter.
In between rounds as the blond traipsed around with the sign indicating the round, the lady in the wheelchair had remarked, "I don’t want to have a pretty barbie girl who shows the cards, but a real man!"
As horns of Johnny Cash’s "Ring of Fire" erupted in between bouts, Seppi’s family and friends pressed up against the ringside. His introduction aroused the loudest applause of the evening, with towel waving and rope shaking.
Then entered his opponent in long red pants, Marquis Mayhem, five years his senior and visibly taller. As the opening bell chimed to begin Round 1, he unleashed a rapid-fire series of lefts and rights that Seppi attempted to block. After a minute of being on the defensive, the shorter one managed to sneak in two lefts and a right that made facial contact. Chants of "Seppi, Seppi, Seppi" resonated through the hall, urging him on. When the Marquis again attempted a barrage of swings, he blocked the onslaught and caught the Marquis off-guard with a few more jabs. Clearly dominant from the outset, the Marquis leaned on the ropes as the referee yelled "Continue, continue!" Ten seconds later, the round ended and the two retreated to their corners.
Cries of "Wien, Wien, Rapid Wien" accompanied the opening of the second round as both utilized the same tactics. The Marquis chased Seppi into the corner thirty seconds in, but Seppi countered with a four-pack of hits, arousing a cheers from the audience. Seppi showed a clear advantage as a red stream flowed down from his nose. His mother held both her hands over her nose and his brother turned to me and remarked, "I can feel him!"
Seppi leaned against the ropes during the break, wide-eyed and shell-shocked, whereas the Marquis took a seat, exhausted. In the third round, the opponent’s eye began to turn black, and he was visibly too tired to continue his attack. Seppi capitalized on this thirty seconds into the round with a trio of punches, causing his opponent to turn his back for the third time, an infraction technically, but not in this amateur match.
Marquis Mayhem retaliated and managed to bring Seppi to the canvas, although due to tripping as opposed to a hit. The close of Round 3 saw a surge on the part of Seppi, connecting on several of his swings.
The break came and an exhausted Seppi held the rope, clearly worn out but mustering every possible ounce of energy for the final two minutes of swinging. The rivulet of blood continued to stream into his now red mouth, barely holding the Rapid green mouthpiece.
The final round dragged on as both weary fighters delivered their final punches and took several breaks. The lights fell on the fourth round and the bout was over. Seppi extended a quick hug to his opponent before retreating to the corner in exhaustion. The two then came together to the referee for the final decision.
The public gave equal amounts of applause and after two rounds of crowd input, the presenter in the white tuxedo announced: "The Winner: Schlachthaus Seppi!"
After briefly being hoisted and paraded around on the shoulders of his supporters, he came down to the ringside where his mother hugged his sweaty and weary body. As she came down I asked her, "He still has all his teeth right?"
"Yeah, he kissed me!"