Remembering Battle At The Boat
There was a time in the city of Seattle, and its’ surrounding area, when a guy could get in a piss up in a bar, and I mean really bust the joint out, and not only would they not call the cops, they’d name a sandwich after ya (we miss you Patti Summers Lounge)! In these ever changing times of advance technology, craft brew, and boutique tattoo studios (does anybody remember tattoo parlors?)so few things remain. Except for one, boxing. More specifically, The Battle At The Boat, promoted by Brian Halquist Productions.
On March 28, 2015 The Emerald Queen Casino (EQC) in Tacoma Washington played host to the 100th installment of The Battle At The Boat boxing event, as it has since the events’ inception on July 9, 1997. Back when the EQC was still an actual riverboat casino docked in Tacoma.
I can recall my first exposure to The Battle At The Boat at a time in the late 1990’s when Bill Goldberg was just about the biggest thing going in professional wrestling. On a Saturday afternoon, during a commercial break following one of Goldberg’s signature in-ring annihilations of a cluster of opponents, a muscled and tough looking man stood in a casino lobby hosting a wrestling viewing party, and announced his own upcoming pugilistic battle for the following weekend. Promising the assembled crowd that they would witness the same level of destruction if they would only purchase a ticket to come and see him step through the ropes. The man’s name was Tim “The Hebrew Hammer” Puller.
Clearly the boxing promotion was hoping to draw upon the same demographic which comprised a large portion of Bill Goldberg’s’ fan base. Well, it worked. I was hooked. Only one obstacle stood in my way. I was not yet 21 years of age, and these boxing events were held in casino showrooms with age restrictions. So, though I would not be able to attend that particular guaranteed bloodletting, I kept the image of that man and the name of that event in the back of my mind, making a personal bond to attend once I was legally a man in the eyes of the state, and not solely in the eyes of my people.
The year 2004 saw the Emerald Queen Casino move from its’ original riverboat location on to dry land. Since its’ move The Battle At The Boat has been held at the Emerald Queen Casino’s I-5 Showroom, which has proven itself to be a fantastic venue to attempt to contain the action and excitement of a live presentation of the sweet science of bruising. In fact, the EQC has become such prime boxing real estate that over the years it has hosted, on multiple occasions, live telecasts of “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN, “Boxing After Dark” on HBO, and “Championship Boxing” on Showtime.
At The Battle At The Boat I have marveled at the skills of the likes of Vic Darchinyan and Abner Mares on Showtime. Cheered on the rugged power of Carlos Baldomir in his prime on HBO. Seen the rise, and sometimes the
decline, of many a young up and comer or grizzled veteran on ESPN. But not only is it the talent and action in the ring, which makes The Battle At The Boat such an enduring event, it is equally the intimacy of the I-5 Showroom and camaraderie of the crowd. Many repeat offenders show up with reliable consistency to The Battle, giving it the feel of an old territorial show. Ushers greet patrons on a first name basis, often with a knowing handshake and grin. Before the lights dim and the first punch is thrown, fighters and their camps roam through the audience as they filter in, taking photos, grabbing a last minute hot dog, or reminding a vendor, “Hey man, save me one of them brews for after my bout!”
It is also common to find yourself seated next to, or engaged in conversation with a bit of boxing royalty. Legends who call the Northwest their home, or even those who have a vested interest in a young fighter who does. By attending The Battle At The Boat I have taken in the enjoyment of boxing alongside the likes of Greg Haugen and Roberto Duran!
Of course, the talk of the evening focuses on the scheduled bouts at hand, but subjects do vary. And quite often, I have found myself in the midst of a conversation about professional wrestling. At times this is due to an individual asking me about my experiences in the industry, but mostly I believe these discussions arise from the old school territorial atmosphere. The feeling that we are about to experience a riot. A brawl. That chaos and fisticuffs are the order of the day. Inevitably the names of pro wrestling legends Dutch Savage, “Tough” Tony Borne, Lumberjack Luke, and the Barr family out of Portland, Oregon insinuate themselves into the conversation. “Hey, remember when ya used to be able to go an’ see those guys easy as this? Just grab a ticket and a beer and just go, man! Ya know?”
By this time the crowd is ready for a fight. So are the boys backstage. The lights go down and the heavy metal music goes up. You’ve been given your instructions, protect yourself at all times. At the bell…come out boxing!
This one time, I had arrived fairly early to the show and was making my way to my seat when I noticed a very large and bald man taking up my space. He was engaged in discussion with the fella next to him, and hadn’t noticed me approach. So I spoke up, “Say George, yer in my spot.” To which the former Worlds’ Heavyweight Champion George Foreman replied, “Look out now, looks like we got trouble…” Without hesitation, all 3’4″ and 85lbs of Fish N’ Chips Wilson responded with, “C’mon now Big George, you don’t want none of this!” We briefly raised our fists in mock combat, but quickly shared a laugh and shook hands. Champion and challenger. Boxer vs. brawler. Fan to fan.
By Seth D. Witz a.k.a Fish N’ Chips Wilson
PS – If you would like more information on how to attend The Battle At The Boat, contact the Emerald Queen Casino at www.emeraldqueen.com.