The Battle of Bendigo was fought as ferociously inside the ring as it was outside, with comments from councillors Yvonne Wrigglesworth and Jennifer Alden stirring pre-fight controversy.
Three ring girls contracted to work at the event were replaced by male ‘fight progress managers’ after the councillors took exception to the use of ring girls at a council sponsored event.
Two of the women working as ring girls at the Battle of Bendigo, Demey Maconachie and Kalista Thomas spoke to the Weekly about their disappointment in their reduced role at the event.
Ms Thomas is a Bendigo local and has worked at boxing events for nearly four years.
“Initially I thought it was a joke. Then I was shocked, disappointed and really mad,” Ms Thomas said.
Having always enjoyed musical theatre and performance, the opportunity to earn supplementary income in a fun and welcoming environment grew Ms Thomas’ passion for boxing.
“I’ve always had wonderful experiences. I’ve never in my time, with the boxers, crowd or team members, been disrespected or treated badly,” she said.
Ms Thomas and her colleagues returned to the ring in the latter parts of the event to a rapturous reception after being replaced by males for undercard bouts.
Boos rang out from the sellout crowd between rounds, signalling the crowd’s displeasure in replacing the ring girls.
“It was really exciting and was the biggest reaction that I’ve ever had walking into the ring,” she said.
Ms Maconachie, a 23-year-old dancer raised in Echuca, said that she has worked at boxing events for five years and never encountered any issues, until this event.
“I thought it was a joke,” Ms Maconachie said when she was told that her role at the Battle of Bendigo was diminished.
“We were wearing very nice clothes and were classy. In the past, we have worn less clothes at events, so this response was surprising,” Ms Maconachie said.
Both Ms Thomas and Ms Maconachie were hopeful the events that transpired last Saturday night won’t hinder their chance to work in these roles in the future.
“I think that it is possible that this job won’t be available to us anymore,” Ms Thomas said.
“I’m hoping that it doesn’t affect any future work,” she said.
– Nicholas Nakos