Sweat still dripped, music continued to pound, and jocks still swaggered about at Epic Night Club on Friday eve. Of course, the 20 x 20 foot boxing ring planted in the center of the popular nights spot's main floor made for atypical environs at the onset of Valentine's weekend, as Seconds Out Promotions and Most Hated Entertainment combined to host an urban evening of nine boxing and MMA contests in what they hope to be the first of future events at the dance and music venue. A portion of the gate also went to fight ALS.
Attendance numbers were difficult to gauge, and sightlines were questionable for some, although the club felt undoubtedly full and hungry (and decidedly youthful) as Epic's second-level overhang provided something of a Thunderdome-feel to the bouts, with the pugilists at times seemingly under greater threat of being felled by a dropped low-ball of Rumplemintz, as opposed to getting whacked by their respective opponent.
While there has been brewing suggestion locally from ardent fight followers that ascending local talents like Joey Abell, Phil Williams, Jon Schmidt, Caleb Truax (the latter two featured herein in recent weeks) have yet to see a steady flow of high-level competition -- this Friday the 13th wasn't murdered by stasis. Rather, of fight nights in recent memory, the nascent Epic card was among the most entertaining.
Schmidt's announced opponent, William Deets, didn't make the trip from Nebraska. As such, the night got off to a measured beginning as the still-arriving crowd watched the "Ironman" fight in headgear, exhibition-style versus gym-mate Charles Meir. A game effort was still very much offered.
The eve picked up steam as local long-armer Jeremy McLaurin took a unanimous decision victory over the short and spunky Sook Siyajuck out of Kansas City. Two fights later, Coon Rapids' aptly named Wilshaun Boxley improved to 5-0, dropping Felix Martinez in the third of their four scheduled rounds. It's worthy of brief note that Boxley's talent is unquestionable, although there were undertones of skepticism from fight insiders regarding his regime - that's to say there were those shuffling about my perch noting this guy could achieve some great things if he really wants to.
After two MMA bouts (more on that below), boxing resumed with heavyweight Joey Abell
Segueing further to the gridiron, former footballer and U on M grad Caleb Truax made short work of Steve Walker (22-20), knocking out the confusingly nicknamed "Spoiler" in Round 2. Truax improved to 11-0, and displayed outstanding patience and tact, first forcing Walker (who may soon need one) to the canvas with a devastating body shot in said round before recording the victory. Of all fighters noted herein, Truax really seems to have that "look" about him; that incalculable something that says star power.In the main event, Phil Williams of Minneapolis came back from hand injury to improve to 10-1, winning by unanimous decision over Isaiah Henderson out of K.C.
As per the aforementioned MMA, I've long been more of the Bert Sugar school of pugilism, and have been wont to chew down hard on my cig and make strange faces when fights of this variety get underway. To wit, it was hard to disagree with the guy standing next to me who remarked, "It looks like they fuckin'," about six hundred times. However, in the second of these bouts, watching former Augsburg College four-time D-III wrestling champ Marcus LeVesseur, I must admit I personally gained a more learned appreciation for the sport. Historically - as per the bouts I've witnessed - the contests go about as long as it takes for a participant like LeVesseur to wrap his hands. But this baby went all four rounds as LeVesseur won in unanimous fashion over opponent John Marriot, with both fighters displaying the sort of stamina generally reserved for Texas oil workers . . . or those practicing tantra. Truly -- really impressive brute strength and conditioning displayed.
Earlier this month, the temperature of the fighting world proved tepid when Welshman Joe Calzaghe, at 46-0, announced his retirement to the un-hype of a paragraph mention in my paper's Sports section. Sure, boxing purists made great noise in their respective circles; but the one sentence blurb in the Trib makes a statement about where boxing still stands nationally.
Yet, if the events of last Friday night are any indication - there remains a devoted hunger for the sport. There remains a devoted fan base. There remain talented promoters and athletes. They'll ring the bell -- we just need to come.