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‘Boxing on an iceberg’: Video captures workout on floating chunk of Lake Michigan

Curious onlookers gathered Sunday near Oak Street Beach to watch the floating pugilists.

It was like a training scene from a “Rocky” movie.

Two beefy dudes shadowboxing on a patch of ice floating in Lake Michigan in February.

The scene played out Sunday off Oak Street beach.

Boban Simic, a Chicago bouncer contemplating a comeback as a mixed martial arts fighter, and his trainer, former pro boxer and retired Chicago firefighter Bobby Thompson, were out for their regular winter swim when Simic noticed a large chunk of floating ice a couple hundred yards offshore.

“I saw that thing and I swam out there and I grabbed it and began pushing it in ... because why not? It was fun,” said Simic, 37.

Thompson, 58, remembers thinking: “I’m not letting you outdo me.”

Moments later both were dancing on the ice, punching the air.

Beneath the water it was 39 degrees. But on land it was unseasonably warm and sunny and people on the lakefront path began to gather and watch.

“This was like the high of my life,” Thompson said later. “We’re talking about getting to box on a f------ iceberg in Lake Michigan.”

About 16 stories up, Jim Dublinski, looked out the window of his friend’s Lakeshore Drive high-rise and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“I see these guys on this sheet of ice like it’s boxing ring, it was just like mind blowing,” said Dublinksi, who snapped some pictures he shared with the duo when they climbed out of the lake.

“I’m gonna turn them into postcards. I am going to put f------ murals on my wall in Costa Rica,” said Thompson, who spends much of the year in that Central American country.

Simic and Thompson met in 2016.

“We’d seen each other working out along the lakefront for years, but never spoke. And then one day he finally comes up to me and tells me: ‘You know what old man, you don’t look like you know what you’re doing,’ ” Thompson recalled with a laugh.

Boban Simic, a Chicago bouncer who’s contemplating a comeback as a mixed martial arts fighter, and his trainer, former pro boxer and retired Chicago firefighter Bobby Thompson.
Boban Simic (left), a Chicago bouncer who’s contemplating a comeback as a mixed martial arts fighter, and his trainer, former pro boxer and retired Chicago firefighter Bobby Thompson were out for their regular winter swim when Simic noticed a large chunk of floating ice a couple hundred yards off shore.
Provided

The two have a strong bond partially formed from one-upmanship.

“I am tougher and crazier and I let him know,” said Thompson, whose nickname as a young boxer was ‘Psycho’ and who recently invited Simic to punch him in the stomach.

“I was hitting him pretty hard in the stomach and he was taking it. ... I know heavyweight guys who wouldn’t do that,” Simic said.

Simic lives in Roscoe Village and can be seen in the winter riding his bike to the waterfront, shirtless, with a chain strapped around his chest (he uses it to lock his bike).

He’s been swimming in Lake Michigan in the dead of winter for years. Lakefront residents regularly dial 911 to report a man in the water who may need help.

After a number of encounters with firefighters and cops, Simic now calls the CPD Marine Unit to let them know he’s going for a swim.

Simic jokes that he’s not human, he’s another species. His Instagram handle is “thefirstoneofmykind.”

He roams Chicago barefoot in warm weather. “It’s natural ... it helps with back pain,” Simic said.

For the last few months he’s been eating raw meat he lets spoil in a jar in his kitchen because, he says, there are innumerable health benefits.

“Lamb tastes like sour cherries. Chicken tastes like burnt peanuts. It’s nasty at first. I’m starting to enjoy it now,” said Simic, who has Serbian roots and moved to Chicago at 18. “I can eat rotten meat and I’ve never gotten sick and I’m looking and feeling better, too.”

Simic, whose workouts have included aerial pull-ups from the steel framework of elevated CTA tracks, is a bouncer by trade who formerly worked at a South Side BYOB strip joint.

Simic talked to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2013 for a story about citations he’d received for his winter swimming habits.

“People are always looking at me and stuff. I see that I stick out in people’s heads, so maybe I’ll use that in acting,” he said then. “It’s something about the way I look. Little kids, they always look at me and point, like I’m some kind of superhero or something.”

People are still looking at him. He’s cool with it.

At his current bouncing job at a Hyde Park club, Simic will take the occasional selfie with a customer.

“People are always asking me if I’m in a band or something. I’m like, ‘No.’ “

Such encounters lend credence to a conclusion Thompson regularly reaches about his friend: “This guy is real.”