Fatal Boxing Weigh-In: My experiences on that Fearful Friday
Few journalists were present at the notorious weigh-in on February 5, 2016. As a reporter who was there, I feel a duty to document the grim happenings through my eyes. My purpose isn’t to embellish, or dilute, what was a frightening affair. As a writer, I intend to simply write about what occurred from my perspective. National media organisations have called, attempting to quote me, but I wanted to create this story myself, using the Fighstore Media website. This account is fast and ends abruptly, which is exactly how the incident played out.
On Thursday night I lay in bed restlessly. Not out of fear. I didn’t have a dream like Sugar Ray Robinson, when he envisaged killing his opponent, which unfortunately became a nightmare reality. No, nothing as ominous as that.
Anticipation was why I couldn’t sleep.
Fightstore Media granted me the opportunity to cover boxing for them three months ago. As a 21-year-old journalism student, speaking to famous fighters and being ringside at significant events is exhilarating.
I attended the ‘Clash of the Clans’ press conference on Thursday at the Regency Airport Hotel, Dublin. After the proceedings, I exited the building satisfied, having just interviewed boxer Philip Sutcliffe Jr. I strolled happily from the hotel, and headed home to file stories.
24 hours later I would be leaving the same location. But this time I would be sprinting for my life.
So after a night of twisting and turning, I returned to the hotel for the weigh-ins. Small, sporadic and random occurrences remain vivid.
“Do I wanna know” by the Arctic Monkeys played on the speakers. I remember that because it’s one of my favourite songs. Stefan, who runs Fightstore with Claire, showed me his new camera that was recently delivered. An MGM official handed me press passes for the weekend’s two shows.
Then the weigh-ins commenced. And danger lurked, eerily close by.
Eventually Stephen Ormond weighed in. On Monday I contacted him to arrange an interview. I left my seat beside Claire and Stefan, and approached the fighter at the side of the stage. Thankfully, he was content to chat with me. We drifted from the noisy crowd into the corridor just outside the function room. I pressed the record button on my device, and two minutes and 40 seconds into the recording, a now chilling message is spoken to Stephen. “Very important” says the man urgently. “Paschal (his trainer) needs to speak to you straight away, sorry for breaking the interview.” Stephen smiled at me and said, “one sec”. I paused the recorder.
Seconds later the door from the weigh-ins burst open and terrified faces bundled out frantically. Their startled, petrified expressions spoke volumes. Men, women and children.
“Run!” was the shout a woman directed at me as a gunshot blasted from inside the room. With the crowd, I quickly departed the main entrance to be faced by men, dressed in Garda SWAT gear, pointing AK-47s in our direction. I had no idea they were perilously disguised, if I did, maybe I wouldn’t have ran right by them.
Opposite the hotel, one person jumped over a wall. I did the same a few metres away and scrambled up desperately, searching for grip, and ended up crouched in somebody’s garden. That’s when another shot was fired. This one was even louder, and felt precariously near the wall I just descended. It didn’t occur to me that it may have been the SWAT men with rifles, who I presumed were there to protect us. That booming, threatening, shriek of a gun-shot is still ringing clearly in my head.
I crept along a row of houses, believing I was in the midst of a terror attack. My phone buzzed, fortunately it was Claire, her and Stefan had escaped unscathed. Minutes later we were in the car, driving to safety.
It was surreal. One moment I was talking to Stephen Ormond, one of the most high profile boxers I had ever questioned, and then I was dashing away from a murder scene.
My internship at Fightstore has been incredible, and this tragic day will remain forever indelible in my memory, but it won’t deter my enthusiasm.
Now I aim to go back to interviewing Irish stars like Lynn Harvey and Michael Conlan and watching Katie Taylor and Declan Geraghty perform live, instead of writing gloomy reports about a horrific ordeal. And the next occasion I meet with Stephen Ormond, I trust it will be remembered for more positive reasons.
Anyway, enough of implementing pronouns like “I” and “me”, it’s time to continue writing about a sport I love, boxing.
Until then, thank you for reading.