After two years of domination in the heavyweight division, Juneau's Russell "Dirt" Stevens must have wondered if anyone in Southeast would be able to challenge him in roughhouse boxing.
But for the second time this season, Stevens met his match as Auke Bay's Jess McCallon won a split decision over Stevens in the second Roughhouse Fridays main-event fight Friday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.
Even before the fight began, many of the 600-plus fans knew Stevens was in for trouble from the 312-pound McCallon, who paced in the hall's entryway just prior to the bout with a determined scowl on his face.
"I'm ready for him," McCallon said as he pounded his gloves together.
Boxing fans had twice seen McCallon win last season, but he was missed in April's Southeast Showdown where the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Stevens easily cruised to his second-straight Showdown title. So Friday's matchup was the one everyone who follows roughhouse boxing wanted to see.
The first round started slow and methodically as both fighters showed little movement as they tried to feel each other out early. Stevens found himself in some trouble when McCallon backed him into the ropes and started connecting with punches to Stevens' head.
But Stevens came back in the second round and made more use of his jab, but his wariness of McCallon's power was evident as Stevens never completely committed a full assault on his jumbo-sized challenger.
"We were kind of tentative," Stevens said. "You don't want to overextend yourself with a guy that big and get knocked out."
Heading into the third round, it was still anybody's match. Both fighters showed little movement as they waited for each other to make a fatal mistake. McCallon landed a few more power shots than Stevens in the round and it made all the difference as McCallon squeaked out a split-decision victory.
McCallon improved his record to 3-0 and, with his win over Stevens, is now considered the top heavyweight in Southeast. On Nov. 17, 2000, McCallon made quick work of Juneau's Bryon Cogswell with a first-round knockout and on March. 16, McCallon won a decision over Ketchikan's Thomas "Heavy Hands" Ferry.
But Stevens, whose record fell to 7-2 in roughhouse competition, knows he will get another shot at McCallon at this year's Southeast Showdown in April.
"I knew it would be a close fight," Stevens said. "I thought he won the first round, I won the second round and the third was real close. He didn't do some things that I thought he would do like throw any jabs. I'll see him again at the Showdown -- it all comes down to that."
In the first main-event fight, Matthew "The Goat" Coppick of Sitka got the best birthday present of his life with a second-round knockout over Juneau's Daniel "The Animal" Fink.
Coppick, who improved his record to 7-2, turned 22 on Friday and made the best of the fight that was supposed to have been against Ketchikan's Gabriel "Steel" Duckworth -- before Duckworth backed out on Thursday.
"I was pretty upset about Duckworth," Coppick said. "My father taught me that a man's only as good as his word. He (Duckworth) got into the ring in January and said we would meet."
Roughhouse Fridays was advertised as a no-smoking event due to the new public smoking ordinance that went into effect on Jan. 1. However, a last-minute waiver was approved for the event and smoking was permitted after all.
In other roughhouse action:
Newcomer Nino Suarez, of Juneau, won a split decision over Juneau's Karmon Kessler. Suarez used pin-point accuracy to get past the taller Kessler. Suarez brought his record to 1-0 while Kessler's fell to 0-2.
Juneau's Matt Markovich evened his record at 1-1 in a bloody affair against Ketchikan's Tom Grant. Markovich held nothing back the whole fight while streams of blood flowed out of his nose. Grant, whose record fell to 0-3, never backed down. But Markovich proved to be too much and won a unanimous decision.
Juneau's Rudy "No Introduction Needed" Vonda brought his record to 4-1 with a second-round TKO over Juneau's Paul Garcia. Garcia (1-1) seemed to have the lead after the second round, but he retired to give Vonda the win.
"I gave up just because I thought I did enough to prove to him man-to-man," Garcia said. "I didn't want to hurt or hurt anyone anymore."
Justice "Cheesy" Cortese of Juneau overpowered Juneau's Kevin Pringle, who retired after the second round. Cortese is 1-0 and Pringle is 0-2 in roughhouse fighting.
Sitka Aussie Scott Robinson evened his record to 1-1 by giving John "The Messenger" Castillo his first loss of his career with a second-round knockout. Castillo fell to 3-1 when Robinson got him on the ropes and put him to the canvas.
Thomas "Heavy Hands" Ferry won a tough match against Juneau's James Harmon. Ferry, a journeyman roughhouser from Ketchikan, brought his record to 5-2 while Harmon evened his record at 1-1.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at email@example.com.