Paul Briggs was something of a childhood hero of mine. Only four years separated us, but it might as well have been twenty, so much further down the path to being a man did he seem to be.
I was getting too many injuries playing rugby, so my Dad dragged me along to the gym to build myself up. It was a working man’s gym located in one of Brisbane’s uglier industrial areas, about as far removed from Fitness First as you could get, where free weights outnumbered machines under posters of Dorian Yates and Playboy centrefolds.
Paul was my trainer and the star of the gym.
His kickboxing exploits had been earning him attention during his teenage years and a herd of kids like me lined up to be taught by him.
Towards the back of a gym was an elevated ring where Paul and his brother Nathan trained relentlessly at Muay Thai. Nathan always reminded me of Dolph Lundgren; a huge man with features plucked straight from a Nazi propaganda poster.
He looked like he should have been the better fighter of the siblings, but there was always something special about Paul.
In later years, I would be able to identify it as his ability to immerse himself in brutality without losing his focus or self control. A cold fury.
As a kick boxer, he could best be described as a kicking boxer.
Most kick boxers simply do not defend properly against quick, repeated jabs, preferring to concentrate on delivering the big showy roundhouse kicks of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Paul was first and foremost a boxer and in the time it took his unlucky opponent to deliver a kick he would have landed a three or four punch combo to the head.
This disdain for the risks of unnecessary flair reminded me of other miserly sporting heroes like Allan Border and Michael Lynagh and there was something definitively Australian about it.
I followed his career with interest and would stand with my chin on the bottom rope and watch him train. It was wonderful to see a local boy from a working class neighbourhood do so well and I can remember the excitement of his first world title bout against one of Thailand’s best.
Paul was nearly hobbled in the fight as his opponent kicked the inside of his knee repeatedly, like David Foster knocking his way through a block of wood.
By the end, Paul couldn’t walk and was wobbling on one leg when his father finally threw in the towel.
Now there was a hard bastard. I’ll never forget the look on his old man’s face; that sacred pride in a well-defeated son.
That was the last time I saw Paul, but I remember hearing that he had fallen out with his Dad and landed himself into some trouble.
Little did I know the depths of it.
I was happy to see him revive his boxing talents and watched intently his first bout with Tomasz Adamek. The sheer brutality of the match was shocking but it was not surprising. Boxing rarely throws up such perfectly matched opponents and for fans of the sport it remains a must see.
Though he lost this fight and the subsequent rematch most impartial fans would have been happy to see the second bout go either way. The manner of his loss was such that the result did his profile little harm and things looked up for him. His time, it seemed, had come.
These recollections are not presented as a defence against what happened against Danny Green.
He was always a hard man to know and I don’t claim to have known him well, but I don’t expect any amount of media speculation will make any real headway into the mind of Paul Briggs.
I just couldn’t help but use this forum to express my regret that boxing stories rarely have happy endings.
For what it is worth, I’d rather remember him as an astonishingly brutal and relentless fighter, an aloof and hardworking sportsman, and a kind guy who never once laughed at just how few of his father’s weights I ever troubled.