Punches were plentiful as clothing was scarce in the ring as thousands of raucous boxing fans filled the Thunderdome last Friday for Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) fraternity’s 13th annual Fight Night.

The charity boxing tournament featured a series of bouts between amateur boxers that included several members of different fraternities. Between bouts, lingerie-clad ring girls, all volunteers from various sororities, danced for an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 4,200 people. The event culminated in a short-lived final match where Pike member Ryan Grant earned a decisive victory over his opponent, Phi Sigma Kappa member Patrick Goforth.

Lance Hawes, a first-year electrical engineering student, said he thought most of the fighters were evenly matched.

“Most of the fights were pretty competitive,” Hawes said. “There was a pretty big crowd here tonight.”

However, several audience members, like freshman business economics major Josh Angeles, rated the ring girls as the most entertaining feature of the event. Angeles also criticized the final bout for being overly one-sided.

“The girls were very good,” Angeles said. “The fighting was not so great – it was rigged.”

The ring girls, all sorority members who had volunteered for the event, were dressed in revealing outfits, including firefighter, cowgirl and French maid costumes.

With only one entrance to the Thunderdome open and a small group of community service officers frisking everyone before they were allowed to enter, those who arrived near the start of the event found themselves waiting in a line that wrapped halfway around the arena and stretched all the way into the Pardall bike loop.

D.J. Ozan’s rendition of the national anthem drew cheers and applause from the audience throughout almost the entire song, marking the official start of the event at around 7:30. The event was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., but due to the large turnout, the first bout was delayed to allow more people to file into the arena. The crowd’s energy scarcely faltered throughout the duration of the night, with well-aimed punches and gyrations of the ring girls provoking the most fervent response.

Events Center Associate Director Gary Lawrence estimated attendance at nearly 4,200 people, making it the second largest event on campus next to graduation. Bill London, junior law and society major and Pike’s event director for Fight Night, said he thought the event deserved its considerable popularity.

“In my opinion, it’s one of the best events on campus,” London said. “It attracts guys and girls in the greek system and beyond, and everyone has a lot of fun.”

London said he was hesitant to guess at an exact amount of money raised by the event because the totals would not be available until after the weekend. However, he said even with an attendance of 3,800 people – 400 fewer than Lawrence’s estimate – this year’s event would have resulted in more than double what it had last year.

“We raised $5,000, at the very least.” London said. “But it could very well be six, seven or even eight [thousand dollars]. It feels great to be able to donate that much money to such a good cause.”

Every year since Fight Night’s conception, Pike has donated all proceeds from the event to Primo Boxing Club in downtown Santa Barbara. The club, which is also known as the Say Yes to Kids Foundation, is an organization similar to the YMCA. It offers free boxing training as well as weight lifting, basketball and a variety of other activities in an effort to keep children off the streets.

“The cool thing about Primo is that kids who join our program tend to stay and grow up with us,” Primo Program Director Jean Pommier said.

Francisco Santana, an 18-year-old Santa Barbara resident who has been going to the club for about 10 years, will be graduating high school as an A and B student, and would have boxed in the last Olympic trials if not for an injury.

“We’re like a family there,” Santana said. “They pull a lot of kids out of gangs. If it was open seven days a week, I would be there all seven days.”

Santana said that if he had not been involved with the club, he might never have gotten past obstacles such as his limited knowledge of English.

“I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful,” Santana said. “I probably would have dropped out of high school – my life would have been pretty much screwed.”

Pommier has run Primo Boxing Club with her husband Joe for more than half of the 20 years the club has been open, converting it from strictly a boxing club into a nonprofit youth center when they assumed ownership 11 years ago. Ever since that change occurred, Pommier said the club has relied almost solely on funds from Fight Night to remain operational.

The arrangement had worked out well until 2002, Pommier said, when increasing attendance forced Pike to move Fight Night out of its home in Robertson Gymnasium into the more spacious Thunderdome. While Pike had been able to donate as much as $8,000 a year to Primo during the event’s tenure in the gym, the first Fight Night in the larger arena resulted in just a $2,000 draw.

Pommier said the club, which had also grown in popularity – it now has a membership of 200 to 300 people and serves about 40 people per night Monday through Saturday – had come to depend on the money Fight Night was bringing in during its peak in Rob Gym.

“You can imagine how I felt when I got the check for $2,000, when we were counting on the $8,000,” Pommier said. “I was in tears the day I found out. We nearly lost our insurance.”

Revenue from the event improved slightly in 2003, and the fraternity was able to donate $2,500 to the charity. Pommier said this was still not enough to keep Primo afloat, but that she continued to hope that Fight Night would make it back to the $8,000 mark.

“We’re really hoping that [this year’s event] can reach that and help us get back on our feet,” Pommier said.

London said Fight Night’s profits had decreased because attendance had not yet increased enough to account for the high expense of holding the event in the Thunderdome. He said the overhead cost for this year’s event totaled nearly $18,000, including the venue, security, insurance, medical personnel, a D.J., and numerous smaller items.

London said he had done his best to secure more fighters from local fraternities for this year’s Fight Night to make the event more personal for students. Several of Friday’s contenders were Pike members, while a number hailed from San Luis Obispo and other areas outside of Santa Barbara.

“We’re having a lot more local greek fighters this year,” London said. “It’s definitely a lot more interesting for the fans; it’s more fun to root for someone you know.”

Primo Boxing Club did its part to help make the event a success, donating and setting up the boxing ring as well as lending gloves and other equipment for the boxers to use. London said he had hoped that the exciting final bout at last year’s event would help bolster attendance for this year.

“There was an entertaining knockout at the end, so from a promoter’s standpoint it went really well,” London said.

London said the event lived up to the amount of organization it required.

“I’ve been working on this for months,” London said. “I started on it as soon as I got back from Winter Break. It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.”

Pommier said she was extremely grateful that the event was able to bring in so much money this year. She said that the decreased donations had made it difficult to afford the necessary expenses for the club, and that it would likely have been forced to close if the situation didn’t improve.

“I’m very relieved,” Pommier said. “If it had stayed at around $2,000, we’d be in danger of not being able to take care of some things we need to pay right away.”

On top of the increased revenue, London said he thought the night was a successful one.

“It went well,” London said. “We started a little late, but I was pleased with the turnout and the success of the boxers from Pike.”

His biggest regret, London said, is that people were forced to wait in line so long to get into the event, making some miss the start of the fights.

“We weren’t expecting such a large crowd,” London said. “Next year, we should open more doors and have more ticket windows available.”

London expressed his gratitude to Associated Students Finance Board and the Office of Student Life’s alternative social programming fund for donating money to help cover the extensive overhead cost for Fight Night.

“We really appreciate the help they gave us,” London said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without them.”