October 17, 2021

Bazar Lead

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Albury’s Darcy Brown, AKA Buddy Oldman, has defeated his demons, now for boxing | Western Advocate

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You learn how to take a hit, working security in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Blokes hyped up on drugs and adrenaline take a move-on order like bulls take to the colour red. So when Darcy Brown put on boxing gloves for the first time, he found it hard “not to kick, bite and scratch”. “That’s a bit of a challenge, coming from where I’ve come from,” he says. “The first spar I had was against my foster son – when I got in with him, I went ‘woah’ and had to pull myself back a bit. “But I love the camaraderie of it. “You’re punching each other in the head, but as soon as that bell goes, it’s tapping gloves and saying ‘Good round’.” Darcy’s trainer, Merv Laycock, admits it’s a bit strange. “You might see the pros hyping each other up, but very rarely there’s bad blood in it,” he says. “There’s a saying, ‘You don’t really know someone until you’ve fought them’, and that’s pretty much true.” The person 50-year-old Darcy has come to know is himself, in the three years he’s been boxing. He and his wife moved from Sydney to Albury six years ago, putting roots down in their country – Wiradjuri country. They knew the Purtell family through Darcy’s involvement in rugby league in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and put Albury on the retirement list after visits to the regional city. Rugby has always been Darcy’s sport – it was only after a major health scare while living in Albury that Darcy found Battleground Boxing in Wodonga. “I had a common disease that Aboriginal people have – aortic stenosis,” he says. “I dropped one day. My aortic valve had to be replaced through open heart surgery in 2018. “I just said to my wife, ‘I’ve got to get healthy’. “Merv was training a bloke at a gym my son was at, and my son told me about him – so I started training with him.” Merv remembers Darcy walking into his studio, which he set up without flair seven years ago. “We pretty much hit it off from the first time we met, with his sporting background in rugby,” Merv recalls. As the weight dropped off – all 40 kilograms of it – boxing became “an itch he couldn’t scratch” for Darcy. Battleground Boxing is a casual studio, popular with mature athletes and women, but Merv has also trained champions and could see the passion in Darcy, suggesting he might like to compete. “There’s a big resurgence for masters boxers; people over 34 years,” Merv says. “There are all these people who thought they were too far gone, but now they’re jumping into the ring for the first time.” Darcy is working towards the Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast in November, and will complete in a division for those aged 46 to 50 who have had less than three professional fights. He’ll fight one month before that in Melbourne, where there will be someone very special; his big sister, who was taken from Darcy’s family when he was just three. “I’ve been looking for her since – I went to the Salvation Army and went through all the records. DOCs as they were known then couldn’t help me, and I eventually found her through Facebook,” he says. “I’d heard a rumor that she lived in a particular town, so I joined one of the groups and put it up, and within an hour I was talking to my sister. I couldn’t believe it. “We got to go across last school holidays and meet her – it was incredible, I just cried. “She never forgot me, but thought that I wouldn’t want to find her. “She had a hard life in the foster care system and she’s the whole reason that I wanted to become a foster carer, me and my wife, because of what happened to her.” Darcy and his wife Sonya, who have been married 28 years this weekend, have fostered more than 150 kids over 20 years. They mainly support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, knowing too many are removed from their families. They know personally what the impacts are when Indigenous kids are physically, emotionally, or spiritually harmed by non-Indigenous people. “In the Aboriginal community right across the nation, there’s still a lot of generational trauma,” Darcy explains. “What happened to me was because of being Aboriginal. “I was sexually assaulted on my 10th birthday, because a dirty old man wanted a f*****g ‘Abo’ kid, which is horrible. “Boxing has helped me be able to talk about it, because I didn’t say anything for 38 years. “I wish I would have spoken up younger, but I guess it’s made me who I am now.” As Darcy explains the pockets of his past that have hardened his exterior – now cracking, through acceptance and pride – his ‘Wiradjuri Love’ tattoo becomes visible. It matches the red, black and yellow cap his mother-in-law crocheted to complete his boxing get-up. Even his competition nickname, ‘Buddy Oldman’ Master Boxer, signifies the deep connections Darcy has to his Wiradjuri culture. “‘Bud’ is such a blackfella nickname,” Darcy laughs. “And they called me ‘Oldman’ at the gym – so that’s what I’m going with. I’m proud to tell my story as an Aboriginal man. “My father was a very proud Wiradjuri man; he used to be a tent fighter back in the day. “The biggest thing he taught me was to have respect; to respect ourselves, respect our land, and respect those around us, Elders or not. “We’re all equal.” Darcy’s mission to win a boxing title is less about his personal achievements, and more about raising awareness of Aboriginal health, mental health, and conditions like Autism and ADHD. “Part of what I’m doing is to make Aboriginal people particularly aware that if you get sick, you can get healthy again, and just because you’re old, don’t let that stop you,” he says. “I’ve been sharing things about mental health on social media and I’m looking for sponsorship to spread the message. “I work with kids who have ADHD – it’s about inclusion.” Darcy began working as a school learning support officer in Lavington one year ago – building on skills gained working in youth detention – and has encouraged Merv to take on youth with disabilities. Two young men in particular have soaked up Merv’s guidance “like sponges”. The trainer of Australian, state and regional champions can’t quite put his finger on what makes boxing so grounding for youth struggling to find their way. “You get this stigma out in this street, of ‘I’m the biggest, baddest bloke’, and that can be true,” he says. “But you get them in a controlled environment like this and it sort of brings them back to reality. “They learn they aren’t the biggest and baddest – it humbles them. “Others change their mind pretty quick that they don’t want to be a fighter, because when it comes to competing in front of 200 people, that’s when your nerves hit and a lot of people can’t handle it.” Darcy reckon’s he’ll be just fine with the nerves come September. “I look at it from the perspective of, in boxing, I can either come first or second,” he grins. “I could come back with a title … or if I get knocked out in the first round, Merv will come back with a sore head from drinking. “I want everybody to realise that there’s opportunity for them, no matter who they are.”