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The One Punch That Rocked Champion Boxer Shelley Watts’ Life

Photo: Renee Gartner

Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Shelley Watts at the Australian Boxing Titles Photo: Renee Gartner

It was sometime after 10pm on Friday the 4th December, 2015. I was sitting in a hotel room struggling to sleep because the next day, I had a challenge bout to secure my Australian Team spot to qualify for the 2016 RIO Olympics. I received the phone call you don’t ever want to get.

“Hello, everything is ok, your Dad is ok, but he wanted me to call you so you heard from us first.”

When I first looked at my phone ringing and saw it was my uncle calling this late I knew it wasn’t going to be good news.

“Your Dad has been KING HIT at the pub and knocked out! We are in the ambulance now on our way to the hospital. He is awake now and he’s ok, but he asked me to call you before you heard it off someone else.”

My mind raced with a thousand questions, but knowing my uncle couldn’t really give them to me at the time, I just made sure Dad really was ok, told my uncle to keep me updated and told him to tell Dad that I loved him.

Your Dad has been king hit at the pub and knocked out! We are in the ambulance now on our way to the hospital


The wait for information felt like an eternity. The best thing about this situation I can remember was being able to switch off my mind, to stay calm and relaxed knowing that when my uncle had information, he’d let me know. For most people who know me, this usually isn’t easy, but becoming an elite boxer has taught me all of these traits and more. I was worried about Dad, but knew that worry wouldn’t help. I also had to concentrate and focus on my fight the next day, as it was a “lose and you’re out” situation.

Unlike most people’s perceptions, boxing isn’t about punching, or being violent and aggressive – it’s a sweet science in the purist form. When I’m in the ring, I am using techniques and tactics to manoeuvre my opponent into a position where I can score on them and meet the criteria the judges are searching for. It’s about being relaxed and focussed while under adversary. When you’re in the ring, you can’t be stressed or worked up. You have to stay calm, cool, collected, use your mind to defend yourself and outwit your opponent. In a way, focusing on my fight the next day was the best way to “distract” myself while waiting to hear from my uncle.

After about two hours I got a call from my Dad. It was awesome to be able to talk to him and to hear him tell me he was ok. Dad didn’t know the guy who hit him it was an unprovoked attack. One minute he remembers standing on the verandah and then next he’s on the deck with people making a fuss around him.

While he was on the phone, my uncle took a picture and sent it to me, the left side of his face was a mess, all black and bruised. I’ve had some decent black eyes boxing before, but nothing like his. There was a knuckle mark on his cheek from the point of impact of the punch and it was very swollen.

I’ll never forget the hug I got off him when I got home Sunday. It was late afternoon and he cried as soon as he saw me walk through the door. He grabbed me and just hugged me, for so long and cried. His face looked terrible, the bruising had extended and there was now a massive hole in his face.

The trip to the specialist showed his cheekbone had been shattered, fractured on either side and concaved into his skull. It had 10 fractures through it. His Jaw had also been broken. The Specialist had to insert a plate on the nose-side of his jaw with a wire attaching to it and then to the other side of his jaw to keep it from falling back into his face.

The first thing we are taught in boxing is to never use a punch outside the boxing gym or ring in anger

When it happened so many people said the same thing, “Gee, the guy was lucky you weren’t there!”. This sentence still makes me wonder how people think. I know they are probably just saying it as a “joke” with reference to me being a boxer. But the first thing we are taught in boxing is to NEVER USE A PUNCH OUTSIDE THE BOXING GYM OR RING IN ANGER! It’s a message I cannot pass on or shout loud enough. Most boxing coaches and gyms have a strict policy for their boxers – use your hands outside the gym and you’re out. Even if I was with my Dad that night, I wouldn’t have retaliated. This guy was obviously intoxicated on alcohol, maybe even more, who knows, but he was violent and was seeing red and there is no way I would’ve attempted to “get one back” for my Dad by using my hands for violence.


Shelley supports of the social media campaign #keepyourhandstoyourself


The one positive thing to have come out of my personal experience when this pathetic, violent and unnecessary attack on my Dad is being able to try to instigate change in our society through the new social media campaign, started by Olympian and professional boxer Brad Hore. KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF is an amazing way I can use the negative circumstance of my Dad’s attack to create a positive influence. A simple gesture of having the words of your hands, unclenched can have such an impact and I am so grateful for Brad starting this campaign and allowing me to be such an important part of it. I had been wanting to somehow inform people of Dad’s situation to make a difference and this campaign is a perfect way to do it.

I am so lucky that my Dad only received the injuries he did. Many families aren’t as lucky. It wasn’t luck that the guy punched my Dad, but it was luck that saved me from getting that terrible phone call nobody wants to hear. Both my Dad and I are relishing in the opportunity to make a positive influence and hopefully change from his One Punch Incident.

We need to let EVERYONE know that VIOLENCE ISNT THE ANSWER! We have hands to help us live, function and do everyday activities – you should always KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF and NEVER use your hands or fists in ANGER OR VIOLENCE!


Shelley Watts is a Commonwealth Games Boxing Gold Medallist follow her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

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