By Harry Hodge
The bass thundered through the arena, with hip hop entrance music heralding the fighters making their way up the ramp. A model in heels worked her way around the ring with a placard reading Round 1 to the whistles of the crowd. The boxers touched gloves and got ready to rrrrrrrrrrrrumble.
Was I in Las Vegas? Atlantic City? Macau? Nope, this was the Saigon Sports Club Championships, holding their second event this year on Huynh Tan Phat Street in District 7.
“Since the conception of the SSC Championships, opportunities have developed potential athletes to represent Vietnamese … in the established fight world,” Trinh Van Tri, CEO of Saigon Sports Club, said of hosting the second edition of the event.
Featuring weight classes from flyweight to welterweight with pugilists from Vietnam, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand and Bulgaria, five bouts entertained sports fans on Sunday night. National boxers, such as SEA Games champion Truong Dinh Hoang and SEA Games silver medallist Nguyen Van Hai were on the card.
More than one expat fight fan groaned about the lack of beer sales at the venue, although complimentary egg tarts and puff pastries were handed out around the VIP section, a first for me. Many of the roughly 2,000 onlookers on hand were probably there to just see something new, especially with tickets provided free of charge courtesy of organizers.
“(The organizers) made a decent attempt at a high-energy event,” commented Canadian Grant Trew, an expat working in Vietnam. “Overall an enjoyable night, a step in the right direction, but needs a bit of polish.”
He added three-round fights were too short to have the excitement and knockouts that come with longer bouts. Trew added that mixed martial arts events were lacking in the city and would do well.