Guy Moon’s faith drives his life and he sees boxing as a way to share hope, resilience and renewal
DEAD on his feet in 25. Seconds stacked with foolhardy haymakers, naivety and bliss, “just throwing shots” in a whirlwind that’s sucker-punched by Guy Moon’s quick-burn.
Gutted. One torpid jab, then another; he ain’t bobbing and weaving, slipping and moving. Deep, deep breaths, keeping it square, blithely oblivious to fear.
“Shattered! Exhausted! Exhausted!”
Because he’s never done this, was amazed to have “scored myself a fight in Sydney”.
From will-o’the-wisp to this outlandish incarnation.
And then, as the in-your-face wall of noise blows away, he’s left with what shouldn’t be so, as he’s green and only 19. It’s his. An improbable win for a first-timer in the ring who knew nothing of the fight game. Got the points; left hanging on fulfillment.
“I certainly did beat this guy. How I won it I don't know. But I had reach on him and I think to be honest, that throwing all those bombs early I just think put him off and he never really recovered,” he says.
“He just couldn’t get going and probably thought it might come again. And he was good, he was a fighter from Bankstown.”
A kid so reckless, so arrogant, of the kind that almost three decades later he’d sort out in his Wodonga boxing gym, if they wouldn’t let it go and start to listen and work harder than they ever thought possible.
Systems. Gotta have systems. Gotta have humility.
His own fighters, if “they were so presumptuous … ”, but the notion fades, thoughts flying back to this guy Moon, barely a man on a night he was bedazzled by gold.
Reckoning “this is the go”, buoyed by the horde of 500 baying at Sydney South Juniors, glorifying his wild illusion with chants of “Wagga, Wagga!”. Knew his town, couldn’t cut it for his name.
“It was a big show. It was just so good. And here I am walking in thinking ‘yep, I’ll win this fight’.”
It was seven years or so on from Guy Moon’s “one moment” that tripped across the globe to Mum and Dad’s place at Deniliquin.
It’s May 1983 and Las Vegas is on the TV. Watching the champ, derided – for all his skill – as a working man’s chump.
But he’d seen a few and was wise to the threat. A succession of mediocre challengers, spurious titles in the shadow of Muhammad Ali, smoked what he’d done.
But here was this 25-year-old with the lousy tag of “Terrible Tim” Witherspoon sizing him up, growling “I got you now” up close before the bell rang at the flashy Dunes Hotel.
Larry Holmes, the pundits reckoned, should’ve fallen in a stoppage loss.
He shouldn’t have kept his big, fat world championship belt, said the gaudy, mixed-bag glitterati polled in the front-row seats.
But he did and so Witherspoon, who had sparred with Ali, had another year to wait for redemption.
It was the almost-fantasy world of this still legendary fight that hooked 12-year-old Guy, left him dancing inside, from something with as much ordinary, everyday relevance to an Australian kid from the bush as a lunar excursion.
“I saw that fight on TV and I went for a run around the block straight afterwards. I got back and then I went for another run around the same block and thought ‘this is what I want to do’.”
GETTING fit, killing boredom, getting mates. Getting tips and relentless, sharp-edged training.
Steady but with a taste of tough for one (beautiful, you’re doing so well, but I need more), far firmer for another (mate, not good enough!). Knowing how to get the motivation running through their veins.
And keeping it so tight, so relentlessly drilled, that it subconsciously hands them an instinctive safety net.
Training them in his all-encompassing passion. From this proud husband and father-of-four, this pastor, so fit and lithe and strong and gentle, re-birthed in faith but cautious in its telling.
Because it’s a funny thing, he says, it’s not something “you necessarily want to tell everybody all the time”. Yet here it is simply because it has to be, if you’re talking about Guy Moon.
Becoming a Christian, not long after that Sydney baptism in boxing, and how it helps frame his life cannot be ignored. But he’s not about to preach.
He’s community, he’s family, he’s for the rough kids soaked in sad homes. He’s a fighter not a pugilist. This isn’t violence. Boxing’s his craft so “to do it right you’ve got to do it right. So I teach everybody – whether they’re fighters, ladies coming in for a bit of fun or personal training – to do it properly.”
The family back home in Deniliquin weren’t churchgoers. They didn’t hate it; it just wasn’t in their lives. “But if I’m being honest about identity I can’t leave it out.”
Everything else he has done (a bread baker, funeral service maker, a counsellor to troubled kids) is not what makes Guy Moon. For it was his faith that gave him focus.
The jobs and the experience are simply the scaffolding of his life, able to be pulled down without pulling apart the man.
There was his first trainer who was a believer, but when this bloke talked such things Guy “wouldn’t really take much in. It was each to his own, we had our sporting relationship.”
There was also a time he would hide under a chair to avoid a Christian mate in Wagga, when this fellow would come knocking, come witnessing. He’d see him heading up the driveway and duck out of sight, but the mate would knock over and over again because he knew Guy was inside.
“Not that I didn’t like the bloke, but come on, give us a break. Because he’s not there just to say g’day. He’s there to start inviting me to things. I used to just dog him, disappear.”
And then the friend bailed him up as he was walking home. “You need to meet my pastor,” he was told and so he did.
“We prayed and my head was down as I prayed and as I came up I was a different person. I was 20. It took me by huge surprise, although looking back I can see things heading that way,” he says.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through some of these things and feel there is no answer.
“There is a Bible verse that says ‘I believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” He sees it, in the here and now, in being an optimist, and then he leaves that alone. It’s back to community, to the “great people” of Albury-Wodonga, this sense of being all in it together that he is passionate about cultivating.
“Some people see it as a smaller town, some people see it as a big city, some people want it to be an even bigger city. But it is just what it is. If I can I’ll do my part in that. Certainly at the moment it’s building people in a fitness sense.
“Boxing’s about building the mind as much as building the body. When you box you’re breaking the bloke’s will, you’re not so much breaking his body.”
HE was a “nice enough” fellow who wanted to box but unlikely to last.
Short and obese. A classic “one-timer”. Searching for that magical panacea to poor health, the kind that takes years and inflicts so much damage. Perhaps too much bad food, or always watching the box.
Thinking like that doesn’t suit, but after coaching so many people for such a long time it was an easy conclusion. And it was wrong.
Mr Unlikely returned and worked hard, then came back again, worked hard and did so again and again. “He just kept coming back.”
Soon he was trim, soon he was in fights in the ring, soon he was becoming a “really accomplished runner”. And so he’s healthy, “he’s cut. And he’s just such a good guy.
“It just goes to show you can’t give up on someone just when you see them. You don’t know what’s in their heart, what’s in their mind.”
It becomes an especially serious business for Guy when a young kid asks to box. He won’t get an answer straight-up, as the first conversation has to be with mum and dad.
It’s so he can make a promise that he will look after the kid, that they will never get into a boxing ring if they don’t have the skills.
It dismays him when he takes some of his young charges to fight nights to discover their opponent can’t box .
“Someone, somewhere along the line has said to that kid’s parents ‘don’t worry, I’ve got his best interests at heart’ and they’ve put him out to be punched up in front of his mates, in front of his parents and in front of everyone else.”
One in every six or seven who turn up at his gym – all pristine splendour and bags red and blue, like a spectacular travelling circus tucked away in a long, drab green shed stretched out in the aching, baking sun – will turn amateur. Or will turn professional.
Fitness and friendship motivates most. Talent is what matters most if you truly want to fight.
“Boxing’s not the sort of sport you go into to compete. It’s one you go into to be elite. There’s no point being a 50-50 fighter; that’s how you get hurt.
“You want to be in for a penny and a pound and you’ve got to be looking to win.”
It was out of the ring though that some of the more pivotal moments of life came through, especially in helping disadvantaged kids. They’d turn up at the government family services office and wait for his ruling on what school work they had to do.
But this man Moon did things differently. Shown the door of the car, off to visit his mates, in all sorts of jobs in all sorts of workplaces. In time for smoko.
“We’d grab a coffee and the young kid would just sit and listen to normal people talk, because they don’t usually hear that. They hear people yelling at each other day and night.”
One boy, must have been 11, had to be bribed by his mum with smokes “and all sorts of things” to go to school. He might slip in his school holidays, but the contact with Guy made a profound difference to a kid who didn’t care.
Once the boy’s mum gave him 70 cents for an ice cream at McDonald’s. On the way Guy needed to get tablets for a smashing headache, then realised he had no cash.
“And he just put up his coins and said ‘would this help?’. That was the first time I’d ever seem empathy. He started opening the door for people and letting them go through first.”
His gym has been the place of many transformations, but listening and talking with a boy too easily forgotten is in the same hall of fame as the dreamers-turned fighters, the wily one-turned trainer (one of the top four or five, he says, in the land).
“I saw him in town not that long ago and he introduced me to one of his friends,” he says of the boy.
“He said ‘this is Guy. He’s, oh, he’s sort of like my brother’. That’s great.
“You can’t be accountable for everything that everybody does, but you can certainly be a part of that circle.”