No kidding - the boy's a real match for Dad!

It's the wrestling bout to beat them all, as father and son are matched together in the final of the Golden Grappler Trophy this week.

And Mum cannot even bear to watch, Sarah Gristwood meets the family at war

King Ben and defending champion Kid McCoy were two of the 16 wrestlers who cometed in the tournament for the Golden Grappler Trophy. This Saturday, the King and the Kid face each other in the final. They are, out of the ring, Philip and Mark Boothman - father and son.

'It was like when an accident happens to somebody,' says King Ben. 'You don't feel the shock until later.'

Ben - as everyone except his mother now calls him - has 13 years' experience in the ring, with three unsuccessful championship challenges behind him and a possible crach at the light-heavyweight championship coming soon.

'I never intended Mark to be a wrestler,' he says. 'I didn't want to lead him into anything, not with the injuries you get. But, when he was about 14, when he started showing interest, I just began teaching him a few throws in the front room.'

Although Mark has been in the ring for only two years, the young children and old ladies who take their autograph books to the bouts make a bee-line for him, as well as for Ben.

Father and son always watch each other in the ring. Afterwards, they phone home to let Ben's wife Pat know that everything is all right.

When it isn't, it usually means one of them has suffered an injury. 'Some nights you just wake up screaming,' says Ben. 'This is not from the rare dramatic injury that puts wrestlers in hospital but from torn ligaments and hairline fractures that are not given time to heal.'

Mark holds out a hand with two swollen, dislocated fingers. In three weeks, he had the same tooth knocked out three times. Yet these men love their job - and so do their many followers.

There's one person who is not a wrestling fan - and that's Pat Boothman, who is a community nurse. She has been to only a couple of bouts. 'It's just too upsetting,' she says. 'Watching on television, at least I know the outcome already.'

Now, with Mark in the ring as well as Ben, Pat suffers twice the agony. 'It's an awkward thing to watch your own,' she says. 'He knew the dangers, seeing his dad with so many injuries over the years, and I thought he'd get it out of his system. But it looks as if it's in his blood.'

The Birmingham bout this week is one ethat Pat will not be watching even on television. 'See my husband hit my son?' she says. 'It's just not on.'

It is father and son's first time in the ring together. 'I don't want to hurt him, and I don't think he wants to hurt me,' says Ben. 'But there's another side to it. There has to be a winner.

'Is he going to make me look a fool? Am I going to make him look one? He felt it was just possible he might be able to beat me. He worried about what it would do to our relationship. But he also knew I'd want him to go into the ring and try to win, like always.

'I've tought him everything I know and, in one respect, I hope that he can beat me. But, in another, I don't want to lose.'

(Back to the main page)