Stephanie ConveryNov 27, 2023
After the Count
The Death of Davey Browne
Penguin Australia 2020
Today we are joined by Stephanie Convery, inequality editor at Guardian Australia, and author of After the Count: The Death of Davey Browne (Penguin Australia, 2020). In our conversation, we discussed the history of boxing in Australia, the failures that explain Davey Browne’s death in Sydney in 2015, the nature of violence in sport, and the future of boxing.
In After the Count, Convery blends the genres of history, reportage, and memoir to explore the death of Davey Browne and shows how this one event illustrates the problems and lacunae inside of Australian men’s boxing. Convery writes from an insider’s perspective – she is a boxer – and her work does not condemn the sport for its brutality but rather asks questions about how to make boxing safer and how to make sure the sport of boxing remains meaningful for its participants. She concludes that some of the same toxic forces that gave boxing its allure now make it hard to regulate and threaten the lives of the people who participate in it.
The book moves both chronologically and thematically as Convery shifts between a mix of traditional reporting, historical research, and experiential accounts of her own life in the ring. The beginning of the book is devoted to Davey Browne’s death and a significant portion of the end of the book contains Convery’s conclusions about the coronial case and in these places the book reads most like a traditional sports report.
Some of the most interesting chapters feature her own boxing experiences and these are interspersed in the more chronological reporting. It is a minor spoiler that Convery suffers a concussion while reporting on the book and when she as she recovers, she dives into research on concussion and CTE. The ubiquity of head injury in boxing (and sports in general) shapes her discussion of the nature of violence. Boxing requires people to fight – to throw punches – and to improve as boxers those punches need to be real and be dangerous. At the same time, fighters need to consent to fight, need to understand the rules, and should have more information about head injury, how to avoid it, and what to do if they suffer from it.
The book defies easy explanations – it’s considerate, even meditative; it swings from a report on Davey’s death in a Sydney club, to discussions of boxings seedy history in gambling dens, and to medical studies on the way to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Convery takes readers around the country - to the places in Davey Browne’s life, to gyms in Sydney and Melbourne where Convery practices, and finally to the coronial court where the people involved in the tragedy of Davey’s death face questioning from the government of New South Wales.
It is a must read for people interested in boxing, Australian sport, and for people interested in the philosophical question of violence in sport.
Keith Rathbone is a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history.