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Let's get it on

Local boxers go toe-to-toe at the Southeast Showdown

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2000

A black cloud was closing in around the edges of Juan MacFarlane's consciousness, drifting in like an ocean fog and making both his vision and his mind hazy.

MacFarlane had just lost a 3-0 decision in his lightweight division bout with Mike ``The Blur'' McClure in the first round of the Southeast Showdown roughhouse boxing tournament Thursday night at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. MacFarlane, a distance runner making his first appearance in a boxing ring, was coherent several minutes after his bout, but he was still feeling the effects of McClure's haymakers.

``There's no question I'm hazy. I feel like I'm in a dream world,'' MacFarlane said. ``This is not as easy as it looks. This was my first time. I thought the competition would be easy. Obviously not. I'd never boxed, but I'd trained as a runner and I knew I had the endurance. This guy had power. But I think I'll give it another shot.''

MacFarlane and McClure were two of the 21 male boxers and three female boxers (event organizers were still looking for another 150-pound woman to fight tonight) who each paid $150 to fight in the two-day tournament. The boxers hoped to be among those taking home $1,000 for winning their divisions.

The rewards were high, but so were the risks, as Burton Rivera found out. Rivera lost a 3-0 decision to Graylen Franson in a middleweight bout, then spent the next half hour trying to clear the cobwebs out of his brain. After the bout, Rivera sat in the dressing room with his face next to a fan for several minutes trying to cool off, then he staggered out into the main hall and finally sat down in the main entrance while a nurse tended to him. Paramedics were eventually called in to treat Rivera.

Even Franson suffered, and he won. Franson, who looked like a slimmed-down Butterbean (popular 300-pound heavyweight boxer Eric Esch of Georgia, who got his start as a roughhouse boxer before turning pro) with his shaved head and charging style, had a large scrape on his chest from a tangle with the ropes. Franson was also holding an ice pack on his right shoulder.

``I had mild rotator cuff problems before this,'' Franson said. ``I fought in the last one (the King of the Ring bouts in late February, Juneau's first roughhouse boxing event in nearly a decade), but before that it was just in the streets. I need to play. I like to play.''

So what makes a man, or for the first time in Juneau tonight women, decide to enter the ring? Many of the boxers Thursday had no or limited experience, but they had a variety of reasons for entering the ring.

Russ Stevens, a heavyweight who claimed a 3-0 decision over Frederick Gallant, said he'd never been in a fight before, even street fights, and he wanted to see what it felt like to get hit. Lui Fenumiai, who claimed a 3-0 decision over Ed Webb, is a former JuneauDouglas High School wrestler and football player entering the Army in July. Fenumiai, who sported a bloody nose despite sending the much larger Webb halfway through the ropes, said he entered the Southeast Showdown to test himself before heading off to basic training.

But for two of the boxers, family played a part in their decision.

``I'm pretty new, but I did fight in the King of the Ring,'' McClure said. ``This is just for fun, and you never know. But the money doesn't really matter. I want to get the belt for if I ever get kids I can have something to show them.''

``I never really knew my family until my mom died a few years ago,'' said Hoonah's John Smith III, who claimed a 2-1 split decision over Butch McClinton of Juneau in the middleweight division. ``I found out my grandfather, John Abbott, was a professional boxer and my uncle, Doyle Abbott who nearly died last year, used to fight in a lot of Sitka Police bouts. The reason I'm here is for my uncle Doyle.''

Smith's wife, Sonya, said she wasn't worried about her husband entering the ring for the first time, even when he drew the champion from the King of the Ring for a first-round bout.

``I've seen him fight before, he hasn't lost,'' Sonya Smith said.

She said Smith, who has six children, is a former state wrestling champion (1986 and 1987 at Hoonah) and current junior high wrestling coach who trained by running a 45-degree hill eight times before finishing up with a 3mile run.

``I sprint up Dead Man's Hill, which is about 150 yards but you're practically walking when you get to the top,'' John Smith said. ``He (McClinton) has got one heck of a punch. He gave it one hell of a go. I knew it would be a good one. He was the only guy I was worried about.''

``I'd rather get knocked out than lose by one point,'' said McClinton, who even though he lost gave Smith a big hug and some pointers after the bout. ``I thought I won the first rounds, but that first round was all go, go, go.''

Smith wasn't the only boxer with an unusual training method.

Fernando Pingtang, who fought to a lightweight division draw with Kenny Frick and may have to fight a rematch tonight, is a former Thai kickboxer who had to remind himself not to use his feet in the ring. Randy Dennis, who claimed a 3-0 decision over Shawn Talai in the middleweight division (first announced as a draw, then corrected), said he sparred with his boss, former boxer Danny Graves.

Art Hughes, who claimed a 3-0 decision over Matt Bunko in the heavyweight division, was a hockey player back in Rhode Island and his only bouts before Thursday came on ice skates. He said he was used to pulling his opponent's hockey sweater over his head, to lock up his arms, which is common in hockey brawls.

``I wasn't sure what to do when I saw he had no shirt on. I'm used to fighting with one arm (the other holds the opponent),'' Hughes said. ``The boxing gloves are about the same as my hockey gloves. I had my choice of fighting Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, or some no name guy, so you can guess who I was hoping I'd draw for my firstround bout. Now I've got to choose between Tyson, Lewis or Evander Holyfield.''

The only technical knockout of the night came in the first bout, when J.R. Diamond stopped Rudy Vonda in the first round of a lightweight division fight. Diamond knocked Vonda to the campus three times in the second round and on his second third-round knockdown, referee Butch Fondahn of Palmer stepped in to end the fight.

``I did pretty good,'' Diamond said later as he watched a video of his fight through the viewfinder of a friend's camera. ``He hit me, though, and I didn't want that.''

Victor Littlefield of Sitka was the other winner Thursday after claiming a 3-0 decision over Jerry Hughes in the middleweight division. Littlefield, who was joined by several of his commercial fishing friends after the fight, said he's ready to fight again tonight.

``There was no question I was going to win,'' Littlefield said. ``All these guys are going down. There's nobody here who can beat me.''

Southeast Showdown

Results from Thursday's first-round bouts in the Southeast Showdown roughhouse boxing tournament at Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. The tournament concludes tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Lightweight (under 164 pounds) - J.R. Diamond wins third-round TKO of Rudy Vonda; Mike McClure wins 3-0 decision over Juan MacFarlane; Fernando Pingtang fights to draw with Kenny Frick.

Middleweight (165-190) - Randy Dennis wins 3-0 decision over Shawn Talai; Victor Littlefield wins 3-0 decision over Jerry Hughes; John Smith III wins 2-1 split decision over Butch McClinton; Graylen Franson wins 3-0 decision over Burton Rivera.

Heavyweight (191 pounds and up) - Lui Fenumiai wins 3-0 decision over Ed Webb; Art Hughes wins 3-0 decision over Matt Bunko; Russ Stevens wins 3-0 decision over Frederick Gallant; Wilson Walz first-round bye.



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