By Sam Squiers
I’ve been talking with Jude Bowler for less than two minutes before I’m keeled over laughing hysterically.
“Even in America I was really surprised by how few women there were who box and how kind of scary looking they were, “ she tells me, her country accent thick, her tone entertaining.
“They say you’ve got to have less than five fights to be in the novice range, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have 200 in jail…you know what I mean.”
Jude’s a comedian, performer, larrikin…and now boxer.
The ring’s her new stage, the gloves her costume and the showmanship of a boxer comes naturally.
Late last year, she won the Masters Boxing World Championship and it was one very entertaining journey to get there.
Jude begins to tell me the story, and you can’t help but endear to her warm country charm, the drawl of the bush tone, her open and honest nature and of course a vocabulary that uses ‘Flamin’ as her f-word.
So how does a 45 year old actor, from a farm in the small New South Wales town of Mudgee, suddenly take up boxing and fly to the U.S for a World Title bout?
“It didn’t really occur to me like that. I had a couple of shows coming up, and I was feeling a bit lazy and unmotivated. And I was on this random day job,” Jude tells me.
Also on this “random day job” (which was exam supervising) was personal trainer and NSW boxing champion Eleanor McCarthy. The pair immediately struck up a friendship when Eleanor suggested boxing as a way of getting fit again.
Meeting regularly at Tony Mundine’s gym in Redfern, Eleanor saw raw talent in this artist. As the training stepped up a notch, so too did their friendship.
“It’s not the kinda pairing you would think,” Jude explains.
“I’m like a 45 year old lessie living in the bush, who’s an artist and a kooky performance artist. And she’s this indigenous athlete who’s not even thirty, straight and married to this really nice guy in Redfern.”
The odd couple just clicked.
So when some others at the gym suggested Jude would have a chance at winning the upcoming USA Ringside Amateur Boxing Tournament, Jude and, now coach Eleanor, had their goal.
Training 6 times a week, twice a day in both Sydney and Mudgee, Jude was put through the toughest routine of her life. Fitness, weights and, of course, sparring sessions. She was getting accustomed to being hit.
“The first time my ears rang I thought that stuff was just in the cartoons. You know when the little birdies start flying around your head?”
“And I was like ‘wow that really happens,’”.
While Jude and Eleanor weren’t short of talent or drive, paying for trip was something else altogether.
Hoping to raise $5000, Jude launched a crowd funding site.
“And it went gangbusters.”
“I’m in the arts so it’s fairly non-violent, anti-capitalist, green lefty corner of the world. You write shows, try to get people to come along, inspire conversations and people looking at the world differently and more broadly and all of that sort of stuff without much response.
“And suddenly you go “I’m boxing!” I’ll probably write a show about it and a mate wants to make a film and we don’t know how we’re going to get our arses to America without a bit of help… and everyone goes SURE!”
Jude raised over $6500, enough to pay for the pair to head to America.
“I was completely overwhelmed.”
Once there, Jude didn’t let anybody down, fighting her way to her first world title at 45 years of age.
“I have the belt now that says I’m World Champion,” Jude tells me ecstatically.
“Which is kind of crazy!”
Jude is now preparing for her next big fight at the Australian Masters Games in October and her first triathlon this weekend.
And she recommends taking up boxing to everyone.
“You are physically capable of more than you realise. The energy and self confidence you gain and the benefits from actually doing the physical stuff, working hard and having a goal, are amazing.”
“Getting’ old is no excuse for bludgin’.”