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Ketchikan and Sitka couldn't lose and neither could the defending champions in the first day of the Second Annual Southeast Showdown Thursday night at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.
In all, four Ketchikan and three Sitka fighters advanced to today's semifinal rounds, including defending Southeast middleweight champion Victor "Savage" Littlefield of Sitka.
Littlefield battled illness all day long, but still managed to narrowly defeat Juneau's Daniel "The Animal" Fink by a split decision in one of the night's best fought and closest bouts.
Fink and Littlefield exchanged blows right up to the end, when both warriors stood toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring, giving everything they had. When the bell rang to end the fight, Fink and Littlefield nearly collapsed into each other's arms -- exhausted.
With the win, Littlefield improved his record to 5-1. But most important, the victory sets up a rematch between Littlefield and Ketchikan's Gabe "Steel" Duckworth, who handed Littlefield his only loss in March's 'King of the Ring' competition.
"I thought I had it won," Littlefield said. "I had been sick all day long. I gave everything I had. I just didn't want to make a mistake at the end."
Duckworth made it look easy against Juneau's Shahram Talaei, connecting with jab after jab and putting Talaei to the canvas several times before referee Ray Lee wisely stopped the fight midway through the second round.
"I give Victor all the respect in the world," Duckworth said. "It'll be a lot like the first time we fought. It'll be boring but I'll win. I dance around a lot and get my points, but if he can't reach me, he can't win."
In the other middleweight semifinal bout, Sitka's Matthew Coppick will face Juneau's last remaining middleweight, Scott Webster. Coppick made quick work of Juneau's Randy Dennis, winning by technical knockout in the first round while Webster needed just 15 seconds to knock out Juneau's Bill Lee.
"I'm not trying to prove anything," Webster said. "I'm just trying to do my best. I'm fighting for my daughters. Any money I win is going to them. I know I can hit harder than anyone. The other guys have to know, when they get hit by me, it's gonna hurt."
Lightweight champion J.R. Diamond of Juneau improved his record to 5-1 and advanced into the semifinals with a decision over Juneau's Fred "Hazzelwood" Harris.
Diamond's opponent will be Ketchikan's Jack Duckworth, who remained undefeated by scoring an unanimous decision over Juneau's Rudy "No Introduction Needed" Vonda. Vonda, also undefeated in roughhouse competition until last night, was no match for the much taller Duckworth who held a 14-inch reach advantage over Vonda.
On the other end of the lightweight bracket, Tyson Duckworth improved to 3-0 by winning an ugly fight that looked more like a wrestling match than anything over Juneau's Fernando Pintang. Tyson Duckworth will face Sitka's Shawn DeMello, who wasted no time with Juneau's Jay Feliciano by knocking him out in 33 seconds.
"I lost 22 pounds in three weeks to make weight," DeMello said. "I was sick like Victor (Littlefield) yesterday too. I don't want to comment on Tyson until after I fight him, but I think it's gonna be me and Jack Duckworth in the finals. We got a good team here and our goal is to get everybody to the finals."
"Tyson will rise to the occasion," Jack Duckworth said. "That will be the fight of the night."
Heavyweight champion Russ "Dirt" Stevens automatically advanced into the semifinals when his opponent Shawn "Iceman" Sheakley of Hoonah failed to show.
Stevens will fight Juneau's Ernie Ackerman who opened some eyes by flooring Juneau's Gerald Austin 40 seconds into the first round with a powerful blow.
Ketchikan's Thomas "Heavy Hands" Ferry evened his record to 2-2 with a T.K.O. over Juneau's Al Garrison who was unable to continue after twisting his knee during a knockdown in the first round.
Ferry's semifinal opponent will be Juneau's Patrick Fagg who knocked out Jerome "The Tlingit Warrior" Dennis, who gave up nearly 80 pounds to Fagg.
"Tom Ferry is the darkhorse of the heavyweights," Jack Duckworth said. "He has out-trained and out-boxed everybody. He's not out of it. Fagg better watch out, but Russ (Stevens) is man."
Ketchikan finished the night 4-0 and Sitka finished 3-0. Juneau boxers ended the preliminary round 4-8 with their only wins coming against fellow Juneau fighters.
Boxing fans were once again treated to another ever-popular women's bout between Angela Day and Angela Decker, both of Juneau.
After a couple of quick exchanges, Day pinned Decker in the corner and nailed her again and again until Decker could take no more. Day improved her record to 2-0 with the K.O. in just 40 seconds.
Another women's bout is scheduled for tonight when Juneau's Marjorie McKeown takes on Petersburg's Laurel McCullough. Both women are undefeated in roughhouse competition.
Tonight's semifinal action begins at 7 p.m. at ANB Hall, with the finals following later in the evening.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.