A former Far West New South Wales grazier has demonstrated that living and working in the country need not hold anyone back from sporting greatness.
Paul Christie, originally from Melbourne, started working in Broken Hill when he was a teenager and eventually purchased Corona Station, about 85 kilometres north of the Silver City, in 2011.
However, during the drought, he and his family returned to his home state of Victoria, moving to a farm near Benalla.
It was here Mr Christie first started visiting the local boxing gym, which he said was helpful in improving his mental wellbeing.
“Basically, with the big hours and being stressed out with the drought, I had to find something else to do besides knocking off work and having a beer,” Mr Christie said.
“I was steady when I first started but trained hard [and] just fell in love with the sport.”
Since taking up organised fighting a few years ago, Mr Christie is undefeated with four wins, including the Victorian state title.
The most recent victory was for the national super middleweight championship in the Australian Amateur Boxing League earlier this month.
Physical activity to overcome mental hardship
In addition to helping him stay fit, Mr Christie said he loved the mental side of the sport just as much.
“Just trying to stay calm before a fight takes a lot of mental strength and then when you’re in there, the concentration and focus is crucial,” he said.
“You don’t play boxing … one wrong move and you feel it, and then when you get the win it’s just such an adrenaline rush.”
He said he also drew inspiration from fellow far west grazier and close friend Brendan Cullen, who successfully swam the English Channel in July.
“Everything that man does inspires me, even the way he speaks [and] that channel swim was just unbelievable,” Mr Christie said.
“He’s always been interested in my boxing. I got a good message from him before the state title, he said ‘when you’re buggered, that’s when your training kicks in’ and I was thinking that during the third round.”
Boxing in the blood
Supporting Mr Christie every step of the way are his wife Christy and their four children.
Ms Christie said the two began training in Benalla together, but she was incredibly proud to see how far her husband had come.
“[Paul] actually had a grandfather who was a boxer but, working on a property, he never really had the opportunity to do anything like that,” she said.
“It’s amazing that he’s just had four fights and already become an Australian champion.”
Mr Christie is not done yet, however. The 35-year-old said he still had a little bit of fight left in him and hoped for more fighting opportunities over the coming year.
“A few opportunities might pop up from this, but I want to focus on getting more experience and learning,” he said.
“I [still] haven’t had a lot of fights, so I hopefully will only just get better and see where it takes me.”