by Doug Robertson
Most 70-year-olds walk away from fights but Adelaide’s Joe Bridges intends trudging 900 kilometeres to get one.
When he should be focused on taking life easy, the ageing pug plans to walk to Melbourne – leaving on Easter Sunday – with his mate, Port Adelaide fitness trainer and former Australian heavyweight champion Foster Bibron, to raise money for cancer research.
Bridges, 74 next month, has prostrate cancer and his wife, Julie, died of breast cancer five years ago, so raising money to fight the insidious disease seems logical. While he is in Melbourne, Bridges will step back into the ring for the first time in 32 years to take on ‘Fighting Father’ Dave Smith, 45, in four two-minutes rounds in the hope of boosting the purse.
Father Smith, a Sydney-based Anglican priest, became a professional boxer to keep his inner-city parish afloat and raise money for the under-privileged.
When he heard of Bridges’ ambitious plan, the Fighting Father offered the possibility of a televised bout. Every time Father Dave steps in the ring, thousands of dollars are donated to his cause.
Bridges says he’s prepared to take a few hits to cash in on that.
“It’s about time I got some brains”, the former amateur fighter said. “It’ll be a real fight, nobody wants to watch sparring.”
Bridges says he lost his punch for life after Julie died, which eventually led to the idea to fight back. He has lost 10kg with daily walks and sparring – including a few rounds this week with Australian professional super-cruiserweight champion and dual Olympian Nermin Sebanovic – at Foxy’s Gym.
Bridges has 10kg more to trim off his waist before walking 60km a day, picking up donations in country towns from Adelaide to Melbourne. He has plenty of doubters and he knows it will be exhausting.
“I expect all that but I’m determined to do it”, he said. “After Julie died I couldn’t get into anything but this has given me inspiration to get going again. Maybe I’ll end up as the oldest fellow in Australia to have a real fight (in the ring).”
Sebanovic says he’s backing Bridges to go all the way. “He’ll do it. In the ring he never gives up, he never stops,” he said. “It’s all in the head and in the heart.”
Donations can be sent to the Cancer Council, 202 Greenhill Rd, Eastwood.