Hero is a word bandied around far too often these days, but it is an apt description of one of the British Lionhearts team present here tonight.
That man is Tony Davis, the coach of the Lionhearts who valiantly tried to save the life of police officer Keith Palmer during the horrific terrorist attack in Westminster yesterday.
Davis, a former staff sergeant in the British Army, disputed the hero tag in an interview on British television show This Morning. But his actions were nothing short of heroic.
When police were urgently calling for people outside of the Palace of Westminster – myself included – to get back inside the building as quickly as possible, Davis was one of those who went against the grain.
He was one of the first on the scene to attend to Palmer, a 48-year-old husband and father, who sadly died inside the gate of the Palace as a result of his injuries sustained at the hands of crazed attacker Khalid Masood in the devastating incident in the British capital.
Such was the volume of blood that Davis went on This Morning without any shoes. He simply had not had enough time to replace the ones he wore the previous day.
It was not until I sat here and saw Davis in the ring that my own picture of events yesterday became clearer.
As I attempted to leave the Palace of Westminster yesterday, the commotion began. A group of police officers were running towards the entrance shouting for us to hurriedly return to the building and then the gunshots came. Two, maybe three. My memory remains hazy.
As this was all unfolding, someone not far from me attempted to jump the barrier in front of us and ran towards Palmer, into the commotion and not away from it, in an example of bravery I did not quite appreciate at the time. That person was Davis.
Davis was mentioned in glowing terms prior to the start of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) clash between the British Lionhearts and the Italia Thunder, which went ahead despite both teams witnessing the unspeakable terror just over 24 hours earlier, and rightly so.
In fact, all of the boxers who took to the ring on a poignant and emotional night deserve immense credit. As Lionhearts boxer Pat McCormack said, the two sides “saw everything”, so it would have been easy to call the fight off and reschedule for a safer and more appropriate time. Instead, they agreed the show must go on.
Super heavyweight Frazer Clarke put it best when asked how important it was that the contest took place as planned. “I’m not the victim, the victims were yesterday – I was in there boxing tonight so I don’t want any sympathy,” he said following his win over Guido Vianello, which completed a 5-0 whitewash for the home team.
“If we can’t get in there and fight after we saw yesterday, how do the rest of the people that were there get on with their lives?
“Everyone was there and everyone has seen it. Policemen have lost colleagues, families have lost friends and they have to get on with their lives.
“We were the lucky ones yesterday. We had every reason to get in there and put a show on.”
They did exactly that. Amid difficult and troubling circumstances, the Lionhearts and the Thunder produced a compelling spectacle and each boxer who spoke afterwards did so with an attitude sportsman all over the world will do well to follow.
“We had to try and concentrate and focus our mindset on the boxing instead of what happened yesterday,” WSB debutant Callum French said.
“My heart goes out to all the families and their friends.
“What happened was terrible and the most tragic thing I’ve seen in my life.”
The incident, which occurred at around 2:40 p.m., took place mere minutes after an event to launch the second year of the highly-successful and award-winning British Lionhearts in the Community scheme had concluded.
It had been full of celebration and smiles. British Sports Minister Tracey Crouch even came down, donned the gloves and sparred briefly with one of the coaches.
It had been a normal, pleasant day. What was to follow was anything but.
“It’s horrible to be honest,” McCormack, who represented his country at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, said.
“When we came out we were right there and right in front of it.
“It was just weird timing as we were right there and we saw it all.
“I didn’t really sleep much last night – my head was a bit all over the place and I couldn’t really stop thinking about it.”
The community spirit within the world of boxing was very much evident here this evening. Respect between the two squads appeared heightened; what they had gone through was unquestionably haunting but it seemed to have brought the athletes and coaching staff closer together.
Another clear emotion tonight, among the boxers and fans, was defiance and a refusal to let the terrorist involved in the shockingly cowardly attack win. By going about their business as normal, they proved they would not let those who commit such atrocities get the better of them.
Boxing often comes attached with a bad name. It is a sport full of thugs and miscreants, critics say. Judging by those who admirably took to the ring tonight, nothing could be further from the truth.
In that sense, boxers have something in common with Members of Parliament (MPs) and the police in general. They are all an easy target.
The actions of MPs, some of whom guided frightened tourists and children to safety inside the building while Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood joined Davis in tending to the stricken policeman, deserve widespread acclaim. The same goes for the police, who responded quickly, effectively and calmly to the worst terrorist attack on British soil since the July 7 bombings in 2005.
The name of one MP, Minister for Northern Powerhouse Andrew Percy, strikes a personal chord as I ended up in his office during the period of lockdown in the Houses of Parliament along with seven or so complete strangers – a vast mix of people from a wide spectrum of industries and professions.
As Clarke said, we were the lucky ones. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth that heroes such as Palmer, who gave his life to protect others, cannot say the same.
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.