SYDNEY - During Port Moresby rugby league’s off season in the 1960s and 1970s, some players turned to boxing to keep fit.
Bouts were usually held at the old Nita Theatre in Tabari Place, Boroko, though sometimes bigger promotions were held at Lloyd Robson Oval or Sir Hubert Murray Stadium.
The biggest boxing attraction from rugby league ranks was the big James ‘Digger’ Annand, a talented and tough second rower cum centre from the DCA club. Digger was also a competent heavyweight boxer.
After a series of bouts against second rate opponents from Port Moresby’s league ranks, a group of expatriate promoters matched him with a known fighter from Australia, a man named Doug Beer.
Beer claimed to be the “heavyweight champion of the Riverina”, whatever that meant. In reality he had featured in only 14 bouts, winning a few but on the losing end of most.
Moreover he had been knocked out in his last two fights which had taken place about two years before his appearance in Port Moresby.
The Annand-Beer fight was held at Sir Hubert Murray Stadium and a big crowd was in attendance to see the local boy take on the Riverina champ.
At the opening bell, Digger came out with a two-fisted attack that send Beer reeling towards the ropes.
Those at ringside could see by Beer’s expression that he already wanted out of the contest, and fast.
Beer took the option of diving through the ropes and landing on the surrounding grass. Then he refused to continue, claiming a back injury.
The referee had no option but to declare Digger the winner. The contest, if you could call it that, lasted about 30 seconds.
The crowd was in uproar and Beer would have been in even more trouble had he not scurried off in the direction of the exit.
He later turned up at the bar of the Aviat Club where he was seen quaffing a few beers with no sign of any back problems, but at least he’d found something he could knock down.
This fiasco virtually killed professional boxing in PNG until boxers of the calibre of Martin Beni and John Aba came on the scene and were matched with genuine top class opponents.
Annand versus Beer had not been pugilism’s finest hour.