CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq -- Nearly 500 Marines showed up to watch this camp's first Friday Night Fights boxing event June 11, the largest of any base event in attendance.
Marines and sailors watched as 28 amateur boxers participated in 14 bouts in the event inside a ring donated by Marine Aircraft Group 16 in a large empty hanger.
"It took me about two weeks to get this thing started," said 1st Sgt. David P. Perry, first sergeant for Company L, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. "I don't think anyone here was disappointed."
Perry, a former golden gloves boxer from Maryville, Tenn., began thinking of the idea when he discovered some of his Marines were sparring with each other on concrete floors. He began training them and soon acquired the necessary equipment to get the event going.
"I had to beg and borrow," Perry said. "But I eventually got it up and going."
The bouts were put through screenings before contenders stepped into the ring. Marines were given physicals and filled out experience cards to properly match the fighters. To further prevent any major injuries, full head and body gear was worn and the boxers wore 16-ounce gloves instead of the regular 12-ounce gloves. An ambulance and full medical staff was on hand in case an injury did occur.
"If anything this event is safer than MCMAP," said Navy Petty Officer Joe B. McDaniel, a hospital corpsman with the battalion from Fort Worth, Texas. "The only injuries you'll see happen is maybe a bloody nose and a few guys will get dazed, but this is a very healthy stress release."
Release it was, offering fighters and spectators a very different way to spend their Friday night.
"I love boxing," said 1st Lt. Edwin Pena, with 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion from Bronx, N.Y. "I would love to get in there but it's enlisted only. Marines love mixing it up. A lot of them have built-up aggression. This is a very safe and effective way of letting it all go. I give credit to all those Marines out there. It's a real gut check."
Many of the fighters never before participated in an organized fight such as this, according to Perry. He said some just wanted to test themselves.
"It was great doing this," said Pfc. Daniel Young Kim, an avionics technician with MAG 16 from Simi Valley, Calif., who won his light middleweight match with a second round technical knockout. "There isn't much to do here. I love the competition and as you can see the crowd loves it. All the yelling and screaming, I was afraid at first because of the unknown, but they kept me focused."
The sportsmanship prevailed as each fight ended with the fighters embracing each other.
"Everyone seemed very excited to be here," McDaniel said. "The sportsmanship was great... the crowd went nuts. I think the event was more successful then even the first sergeant could have imagined. Next week's crowed should be even bigger."
"Everyone had a great time," said Perry. "I think that is what matters most.
"It seemed as though the ones who were training with me did the best tonight," Perry added. "I hope word gets out and soon we'll have many more fighters."
"Tonight was great," said McDaniel. "So far it has been the best escape from our current situation. It's good to have something else occupy your mind sometimes."