Varazdat was a great pugilist. The fact of his Olympic triumph is not the sole proof of that. There is also an indirect, but a very telling proof of his skills. When describing Varazdat, ancient authors would always mention and emphasize his handsome appearance. Which must have been hard for him to maintain, as the strikes of fists wrapped in rough leather belts left scars that are impossible to heal, and would make the face ugly. Therefore, he must have won without receiving hardly any strikes to the face. That's possible only for a high-caliber athlete. Doubtless, Varazdate was one of them.
Varazdat became the last champion of the Ancient Olympics and one of the few foreigners to achieve that title.
Here is the detailed report of the fights of King Varazdat at the 291st Olympic Games.
The herald called up Philon of Constantinople and the foreignerVarazdat. The Byzantine stood almost a full head taller than his opponent. Also, he had long arms, which is a great advantage for a boxer. He entered the arena with an assured step, itching to start the fight. But an attentive viewer could see some hurry in Philon's movements, which betrayed his apprehension. Was it caused by Varazdat, whose earlier victory at Delphi was, of course, known to Philon? Or did the audience's sympathy for the foreigner annoy him?
-Courage, Varazdat! Philon is no scarier than a lion!
-Come one, foreigner, show us what you can do!
Varazdat already stood at the center of the arena, paying no attention to the bleachers. At the judge's prompt, he assumed the stance and raised both arms. And, surprisingly, kept both of them at almost the same position-at the chest level. Two or three punches, thrown by Philon from the right, cut the air like a whip and forced Varazdat to increase his speed in circling around the Byzantine. Really, both fighters kept the distance. With his outstretched arm, the Byzantine tried to reach his opponent's left arm. But Varazdat persisted in avoiding that, keeping the distance and holding his arms bent slightly above the waist.
-Fear not, foreigner!
Varazdat's stance wasso unusual that some of the spectators thought that he must not be familiar with the canons of the sports. Some laughter began to be heard. Although they appreciated Varazdat's mobility, many of them still viewed his actions unfavorably, seeing everything but the desire to win in them.
The shout, yelled by some spectator, most likely from Constantinople, was echoed by his compatriots, and Philon, who unsuccessfully tried several more times to reach Varazdat's head with his right fist, began pressing harder against his opponent. His movements gained purpose and surety. When, yet again, he swung and hit the air where the foreigner's face was a mere moment ago, Varazdat, who drew back, made a quick and springy leap towards the out of position opponent. Foreigner's strong legs propelled his body like a catapult towards the Byzantine. Overtaking the body, his left pierced Philon's chin like an arrow. The latter took one more step forward, by inertia, as if feeling no paind and ready to respond. But, suddenly, he grew limp and keeled over onto the white sand.
The judge was the first to regain composure. Upon ensuring that the Byzantine is unable to continue, he walked up to Varazdat and raised his right arm in victory.
Philon shook his head, slowly regaining consciousness. Only now did the spectators began realizing what just happened. Shouts of approval rolled across the stadium, people began a spirited conversation with one another, trying to recall the details of the bout.
-His fists are faster than lightning!
-He knocked Philon over with his left!
-What a punch! The Gods have loaned him some of their strength!
Meanwhile, Varazdat stood once again in the middle of the arena. This time, his opponent was Damiscus, of Sicily. With arms crossed on his chest, the Sicilian menacingly glared at Varazdat, awaiting the start of the bout. In his previous fight, he easily defeated Polycarus of Alexandria, and now was yearning to prove that Nike, the godess of victory, was his patron.
-Don't threaten him, Damiscus! This foreigner is not one of faint-hearted! He'll only yield to strength!
-Give it up, Varazdat! Damiscus is no Philon! He'll make you eat the sand from the arena!
Varazdat stood there, with lowered arms, awaiting the command to start the fight. At the judge's prompting, the fighters took their stances. Varazdat-yet again, with slightly raised arms, always to ready to jump back and keep the distance. Damiscus-stretching out one arma and readying the other for the punch. But what's this? The arm used to keep the opponent at bay was his right one. While he was readying the left one for hitting. His left was much stronger than his right. Few enjoyed this gift, which gave them a sizable advantage, as it's not easy for opponents to take on such an unusual adversary. While deftly maneuvering, Varazdat, as always, kept the distance from opponent. Damiscus lost his composure. Several light hits, grazing his face, made him lose caution, and he openly began advancing on Varazdat.
-Keep your blood cool, Damiscus!
But the Sicilian ignored the advice. Keeping his right in front, and tirelessly swinging his left, he tried to get near to his opponent and to deliver a hard punch from the side. But, the moment Varazdat's face seemed so near, Damiscus would put all his strenght into the punch, only for Varazdat to jump back and continue circling around him, as if inviting to try his luck again.
Sweat came streaming down the oiled bodied of the fighters. A tense fight was unfolding. But the spectators did not feel this tension. They didn't see punches, blood, or pain-the things that appealed to them the most in a boxing match. They thought this style to be detrimental to the manly sport of boxing, and thus not to be encouraged. Talks began along these lines:
-For how long can the bout continue?
-How can the judge announce the winner when neither fighter is capable of a direct punch?
-There were instances in history when to determine the winner, the overseer would order a series of free punches! Not that's a spectacle!
The tired Sicilian, who expanded his strength in futile attempts to reach his opponent, lowered his arms in fatigue for a mere moment. And that's when Varazdat delivered two powerful punches that rocked Dimiscus. The Sicilian's eyes grew dim, he instinctively tried to raise his arms, but the new punches from left and right to the jaw, followed by a straight one to the face took away his will to resist. The foreigner delivered his punches with a calculated precision: just enough to break his opponent's resistance, but not to knock him down. Audience liked that. Many jumped up from their seats and, waving their hands around, began encouraging Varazdat. The judge did nothing to restore order among the spectators, as it was obvious that the fight is about to end. The Sicilian lowered his arms completely, unable to protect his head. Almost unconscious, he continued to advance upon the reatreating Varazdat, not hearing the shouts of his compatriots, who were still hoping against hope that he'll recover.
Finally, a short punch to the jaw ended this bout. It was a snappy punch of average power, but enough to finish off the the exhausted Damiscus. The crowd went wild. Olympic spectators finally saw a kind of fight they came to see. Although the punches were delivered by just one of the fighters.
Usually, the opponents would not exchange words before the bout. Varazdat broke the tradition and adressed the Carthagenian in a friendly manner:
-You'll be a difficult adversary for me, Ikkos, but I will try to best you!
-I, too, will strive to win. Our friendship won't suffer on that account, Varazdat,-replied Ikkos.
The crowd grew silent the second the judge gave his command. Spectators anticipated an interesting and action-filled bout.
Despite their considerable weight, both fighters moved with ease along the sandy arena, and, preparing for decisive action, threw short lefts at each other. On defense, Varazdat preferred to increse the distance by stepping back or dodging. The heavier and less susceptible Ikkos either ate his opponent's hits with his left or also dodged.
Not only the spectators were captivated by the fighters, but the officials as well. One of them, leaning to his colleague, said admiringly:
-This is not only an unusual fight, but a beautiful one as well!
The nearby officials nodded their heads in agreement.
Meanwhile,Varazdat, already managed to, while counterattacking, deliver two side left punches to the jaw of Ikkos. At the last second, Varazdat would manage to use his leg strength to duck and to send a chasing left to the Carthagenian's temple. Pretending to repeat his maneuver, Ikkos succeeded in delivering sizable left hit to Varazdat's face, without swinging his fist. That caused a counterattack, and for a few seconds the opponents exchanged hard side glances.
Ikkos put an end to this exchange. He jumped back and increased the distance. He understood well that to win against an opponent like Varazdat, one has to try something new. As for Varazdat, he looked perfectly fresh, and only the track of Ikkos' belt on his right cheek was the proof that his opponent's fists also found their mark.
-Be careful, Ikkos!-advised the Tunisians.
-Hit him more often, Varazdat!-one could hear from the other side.-Only punches bring victory!
It was an exciting fight, but the ending came abruptly and was rather silly. Ikkos, missing time and time again as Varazdat dove beneath his right, decided to change the direction of the line of attack and to hit lower, where the opponent's head should be after the dodge. Pretending to go for a left to the face, Ikkos directed a side shot to the chest with his right, hoping to hit the opponent's head as he would dive. But this time, he didn't dodge, and Ikkos's right hit Varazdat's torso. The rough leather belts went across the opponent's chest, leaving a bloody trail. Audience queited down, anticipating something bad.
The judge stopped the fight immediately, and announced loudly throughout a suddenly-quiet arena:
-Ikkos of Carthage, you are disqualified for a forbidden punch. And for breaking the rules, you'll be punished as well! Varazdat of Artaxata is hereby declared a winner!
-Epicraders of Athens, a two-time Olympic champion!
"This won't work against me,"-thought Epicraders. "It's my first fight today, while Varazdat must be considerably tired after three fights."
The opponents failed to wear Varazdat out, but his fighting style-all those dodgings, dives, and maneuvering-demanded great expension of energy.
-Varazdat of Artaxata!-proclaimed the herald.
Varazdat weighed a full talent less than his imposing adversary, and was less experienced, but was full of desire to win no matter what.
As soon as the judge ordered the fight to commence, Epicrades made it to the center of the arena with speed that was hard to expect from someone of his massive build, and, putting his left arm in front of himself, assumed the classic stance, which brough him so many victories.
Varazdat decided not to wait for attacks. Maneuvering, he approached the outstretched arm of Epicrades, and then, with a quick movement of his own right he pushed it aside and simultaneously delivered a straight left to the Athenian's chin. It happened so quickly that Epicrades was caught aback. And the foreigner's punch was definitely felt. Not so much due to the power of the punch, but to the snappy delivery. Time after time Epicrades would through his left forward, trying to reach the foreigner's face and readying the right hit. But his elusive opponent gave him no chance for that.
Suddenly, Varazdat threw his left out front and got up close to the Athenian. Epicrades was on his turf: he was used to feeling out his opponent with a left and delivering a powerful right. But as he swung, Varazdat bent his left at the elbow, took one quick step towards Epicrades, threw a powerful hit to the temple, and, jumping back, got another straight right in. Those punches shook Epicrades.
-E-pi-cra-des! E-pi-crades!-the Athenians at the stands began to shout their hero's name, to caution him.
The Armenian fans began shouting as well, first disjointely, but then louder:
-Va-raz-dat, up-tur! Va-raz-dat, up-tur!
For some time now Epicrades couldn't hold his left arm in front, lacking strength. Throwing caution to the wind, he would approach Varazdat and hit with both arms. Mostly, those punches just shook the air, occasionally, they would reach Varazdat's fists and shoulders. The last fact encouraged the Athenian. He felt that a desired, exact punch to opponent's face is feasible, possibly forthcoming. True, one of Epicrades's punches did get Varazdat right on the chin, though it wasn't a powerful punch. Buouyed by success, Epicrades forgot about caution and rushed forward-and that's when two straights stopped him dead in his tracks. Those were monstrously powerful punchers. Varazdat threw his whole weight into them. And their power was doubled by Epicrades moving forward. The stunned Epicrades was already falling forward when a new punch from below caught his fall. Two more threw him on the sand.
The crowd went wild. The bout was nearing its end, but not over yet. Demetra whispered, not taking her eyes off Varazdat:
-It never happened before-a barbarian winning in Olympia! Is it possible? Gods, help Varazdat!
-Get up, Epicrades! Get up!-shouted the Athenians from the stands.
And Epicrades got up. First on one knee, than on another, and he inhaled deeply. But didn't linger in this position. And not just because the famous Epicrades must never kneel. A two-time Olympic champion, winner of many bouts, he fought for victory only. He was a true competitor and had no plans to rest on the sand and waste time.
With his glazed gaze he found the foreigner. Took two steps forward, trying to raise his arms. And suddenly took another right on the chin and then, already falling-another to the jaw. Crowd screamed in ecstasy. But Epicrades heard nothing. He lay on the sand and heither heard nor comprehended anything.
Ikkos ran up to Varazdat. He put his hands on Varazdat's shoulders and said, with feeling:
-You're worthy of victory, Varazdat! None of us could have bested Epicrades. And also, thank your for protecting me. I'll never forget neither the fight nor how you saved me from disgrace.
Varazdat breathed with effort, blood-red spots on his cheek and chested proved that his victory was hard-earned. The judge, in silence, tied a white ribbon around his head and, after giving him a palm branch, raised his right arm. Immediately, the horn sounded off, and the herald, the one called the loudest voice of Olympia, shouted three times, as was the Greek custom:
-Varazdates, the son of Anobas of Artaxata,-is an Olympic champion!
His compatriots hoisted Varazdat high upon their shoulders and carried him to the exit, and further on-to where the tents of Armenians were located.