Backyard fighters vow to fight on
An underground Christchurch fight club will push ahead with its next Backyard Brawl despite opposition from police and boxing officials.
The group of young men, who call themselves Backyard Brawlers, have been holding alcohol-fuelled boxing matches in makeshift rings in Christchurch backyards for more than a year.
Videos of the fights, showing men and women fighting while others drink and cheer, have been posted on You Tube and Facebook.
The events have been condemned by Boxing New Zealand, which called the fights "thuggery".
Police said they would investigate if they knew an event was being planned or a complaint was made.
The moderator of the Backyard Brawl Facebook site, who wanted to be known only as James, said three events had been held, with another planned for next month.
The fights evolved out of someone bringing boxing gloves along to "a few mates having a couple of drinks".
All the participants were friends, with the motto "Mates before and mates after", he said.
The parties were invitation-only, and strangers who wanted to fight had been turned away.
Fights were stopped as soon as one person said "stop" or if someone appeared to be hurt, he said. "One of my fights was stopped just because my nose was bleeding too much."
The 20 to 25 members of the group were aged in their early 20s.
James said he was "not a fighter" outside the ring.
Boxing New Zealand chairman John McKay said the availability of alcohol made the fights "nothing less than a pub brawl".
"It's tantamount to causing a catastrophe," he said.
"It's an accident waiting to happen.
"Unfortunately, they're wearing boxing gloves, so it's called boxing. It's not – it's thuggery."
McKay said the videos he saw showed dangerous practices, including punching in the back of the head, backhanding and mismatches between different-sized fighters.
Boxers in sanctioned events had to undergo a stand-down period if knocked out, he said, and all injuries were recorded in a log book.
"These guys wouldn't know what a book was."
McKay said some gangs held "fight nights".
Acting Detective Inspector David Long, of the Christchurch police, said people could not consent to being assaulted.
"In the event that someone complained of assault, or was seriously harmed, police would investigate," he said.
"If a person was to die from injuries sustained while participating in such an event, a charge of manslaughter could result."
Criminal culpability could extend to the organisers of the fights, he said.
Boxing bouts were governed by the Boxing and Wrestling Act and needed permits from the Department of Internal Affairs, he said.
McKay said the Boxing and Wrestling Act specifically excluded Asian martial arts.