After it was all said and done, all three defending champions at the Second Annual Southeast Showdown proved they were deserving of their titles by taking home another championship belt.
Lightweight champion J.R. Diamond of Juneau, middleweight champion Victor "Savage" Littlefield of Sitka and heavyweight champion Russ "Dirt" Stevens of Juneau will hold their titles for one more year after a wild Friday night at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.
Diamond's victory took a bizarre twist when Ketchikan's Tyson Duckworth was disqualified midway through the first round.
Duckworth was initially warned by referee Ray Lee for throwing a punch after a break was called. Still, after the very next break was called with Diamond and Duckworth tied up, Duckworth proceeded to lift Diamond around the waist by his left arm. He then dropped Diamond to the canvas while throwing a right that landed squarely on Diamond's jaw.
Lee immediately disqualified Duckworth from the fight, which enraged the Ketchikan corner and a melee ensued in the crowd before security and police escorted the perpetrators out of the Hall.
Diamond was visibly overjoyed, climbing on the ring with his arms in the air, but nevertheless, he had regrets about how he won his second lightweight championship.
"I wanted to fight him really bad," Diamond said, "The whole thing with the Duckworths bothers me. They have so much respect around here. Tyson had more vengeance out for his dad than winning the fight."
With the win, Diamond improved his roughhouse record to 7-1 with his only loss coming to Hoonah's Elijah Sheakley in November's 'King of the Ring' competition. Duckworth received his first blemish on his record after going 4-0 with his split-decision win over Sitka's Sean DeMello in the semifinals.
"I had to take that loss to Elijah (Sheakley) because of my ankle," Diamond said. "But I worked harder and trained hard -- all by myself. It feels damn good. I never thought I could do it twice in my life. I was so happy, I went home and cried."
Tyson Duckworth's ejection stemmed from the early lightweight semifinal match between Diamond and Tyson's father, Jack Duckworth. Jack Duckworth was penalized one point in the second round of their match for a rabbit punch and Diamond won the match by the closest of margins in a split decision.
That decision was also not popular with the Duckworth clan and matters got worse when middleweight Gabe "Steel" Duckworth lost in a split decision in his semifinal bout with Littlefield. After the decision was announced, cries of protest came from Gabe Duckworth's corner and Jack Duckworth protested the decision by staging a sit-in in the middle of the ring.
"That was nothing," Jack Duckworth said. "That was just my way of saying that I protest the decision."
"I blew it," Tyson Duckworth said. "I let my emotions get the better of me. I know I could have beaten him easily."
Littlefield's middleweight title quest did not posses the lightweights' dramatics, but Littlefield nevertheless dealt with the most adversity of any of the champions. He fought through illness in Thursday's preliminary round to squeak by Juneau's Daniel "The Animal" Fink, before facing Gabe Duckworth in the semifinals.
Littlefield advanced to the finals to face Sitka's Matthew Coppick, who got past Juneau's Scott Webster in the preliminaries. Littlefield put Coppick to his knees in the first round and held the upper hand the rest of the way to claim his second middleweight belt.
"I hurt my arm against Duckworth and I was sick yesterday," Littlefield said. "Coppick tried to take it from me. I've been sparring with him but he hadn't hit me like that before."
Littlefield announced his retirement from roughhouse boxing after the fight.
"I'm all done. I'm gonna be training from now on," Littlefield said. "I'm so happy. I didn't think I had a chance. I'm so happy to come here and do it again."
Stevens' route to the heavyweight title seemed a bit anti-climatic after the grueling drama of the lightweights and middleweights.
Stevens by far had the easiest track to the final round. He received a first-round bye and came in the ring fresh on Friday and defeated a surprisingly resilient Ernie Ackerman of Juneau who was making just his second fight appearance.
Stevens won a decision over Ackerman to set up his championship fight against Ketchikan's Thomas "Heavy Hands" Ferry, who defeated Juneau's Patrick Fagg in the preliminaries. Stevens knocked out Ferry earlier this year, but Ferry looked greatly improved as he lasted the whole way and even got some hard shots in on the hulking heavyweight champion. Stevens remains undefeated at 7-0 with three knockouts.
"He's much improved over the last time I fought him," Stevens said. "He came right out at me in a hurry. Then I could tell he'd been working on his technique. He even hurt me with a couple of shots.
"I changed and I came here to win," Ferry said. "I've been working with Kevin Oliver, the 1984 New York State Golden Gloves Champion, and he's been teaching me to drop my shoulders and roll with the punches."
In between the semifinals and finals, Petersburg's Laurel McCullough got the best of Juneau's Marjorie McKeown in the feature women's bout. McCullough put McKeown to the canvas in the first round and continuously connected with hard punches throughout the fight to score a unanimous decision over McKeown.
Each champion received $1,000 and a new championship belt for their efforts while the runner-ups received $250 and a second place plaque.
The Southeast Showdown concludes the 2000-2001 boxing season, with fights resuming again in the fall.
Jeff Kasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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