It's a showdown in Southeast

Boxers brawl for prize money

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2000

A battered but proud Lui Fenumiai grabbed the microphone and asked for the 500 or so pumped-up boxing fans to quiet down. Fenumiai had just lost the heavyweight title of the `Southeast Showdown' to a taller Russ Stevens in what was probably the night's best-fought bout, but now he had other things on his mind.

Fenumiai, 23, turned to his group of friends sitting near ringside. Fenumiai's girlfriend Michelle Ibias stood up, put her hands to her face and began to cry as if she knew what was coming.

That's when Fenumiai popped the question.

``Will you marry me?'' Fenumiai said.

A happily-sobbing Ibias stepped through the ropes and gave Fenumiai a big hug as the crowd erupted in cheers.

``She always thought I was not that romantic,'' Fenuniai said. ``Even though I lost I said the heck with it. I might as well do it.''

It was that kind of night at the Southeast Showdown, a two-day roughhouse-style boxing event at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall where prospective pugilists went toe-to-toe for a chance at $1,000 in three different weight classes.

In the lightweight division championship, J.R. Diamond sent Mike ``The Blur'' McClure to the canvass with a three-punch flurry to win by technical knockout 58 seconds into the second round.

Sitka's Victor Littlefield stopped John Smith III of Hoonah by knockout 47 seconds into the first round of the middleweight title bout.

And in the heavyweight championship, Stevens defeated Fenumiai by a 3-0 decision.

The event also featured what promoter Bob Haag believed was the first female bout in Juneau.

Marjorie McKeown, a 37-year-old fitness instructor and mother of four, won a 3-0 decision over 28-year-old Angela Decker. McKeown, who teaches a kick boxing class at the Juneau Racquet Club but has never been a fight, took several boxing lessons before the bout.

Decker said before the bout that she'd been in many streetfights, and fought in two boxing matches in Anchorage, winning one and losing one. Decker said she had a reputation as a tough streetfighter, and that reputation has followed her around town.

``People challenge me just because of my rep,'' Decker said. ``But I'm mellow. It takes a lot to piss me off. People can call me names till they're blue in the face, but once they hit me, that's when I go off.''

But Decker, who is 5 feet tall, couldn't land any punches against the 5-11 McKeown. McKeown, meanwhile, used her longer reach to keep backing Decker up and landed enough blows to frustrate Decker. Referee Butch Fondahn of Palmer warned Decker once for taunting after she'd gotten the worst of a first-round flurry.

``I had sort of an unfair advantage with my height,'' said McKeown, who got the idea to box from her husband Martin.

``It happened so fast,'' McKeown added as she received hugs and congratulations from wellwishing women. ``I was just trying to be an athlete. I was trying to be objective.''

Promoter Bob Haag, who'd helped train such Alaska boxing legends as former IBF lightweight champion Greg Haugen and twotime heavyweight national Tough Man champion Cody Koch, worked with McKeown before the fight. Haag said he was apprehensive putting an inexperienced McKeown against the battle-tested Decker, but wanted to prove a point.

``I wanted to prove that a boxer can beat a brawler any time,'' Haag said.

``A brawler fights out here,'' said Haag, his fists low at his sides. He then brought his fists up in front of his face and threw straight jabs. ``I told her if we fight on the inside we'll win.''

That wasn't the case in Littlefield's defeat of Smith in the middleweight bout. Smith danced and jabbed in his 2-1 decision over Randy Dennis to advance to the final, but that style didn't work with Littlefield. Littlefield, who advanced to the title fight after Graylen Franson of Juneau went down with a dislocated shoulder in the third round, said he eschews an undisciplined style.

``He tried to box me and that's not right,'' said Littlefield, an electrician from Sitka. ``I've beat every boxer I've faced. It's the brawlers who give me trouble. They're too wild and I don't know what's coming.''

A pumped-up Diamond gave a big hug to McClure after the lightweight title bout. Both fought in the `King of the Ring' roughhouse contest in February. Diamond, who's boxed for about six years, said he'd sign up again if roughhouse boxing comes again to Juneau.

``I love the sport,'' Diamond said. ``It lets me take out my frustrations other than fighting.''

Stevens, whose wife Jamiann won the ring girl contest at King of the Ring, was a rookie to the ring, but stuck to his strategy like an experienced pro. Stevens dodged Fenumiai's bullish charges, waiting for openings. Fenumiai staggered Stevens with a left uppercut early in the second round, but Stevens came back with a duck-andhook maneuver to force a standing-eight count.

``When I started moving around he looked at me like `Are you going to fight or are you going to run?''' Stevens said. ``But it ended up being who just toughed it out.

``It could have gone either way.''

Stevens dedicated his victory to Ladd Macaulay, the founder of the Douglas Island Pink and Chum hatchery (DIPAC) who died in a car wreck last Wednesday on the Seward Highway.

``His son Andy was one of my best buddies,'' said Stevens, whose own father passed away when he was 11 years old.

Haag said he was impressed with the level of skill shown by Stevens. Haag, who co-promoted the Southeast Showdown with Juneau-Douglas Boxing coach Ray Lee, has promoted roughhouse bouts in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Sitka.

``It happens in every town,'' Haag said. ``I go into a different town and the toughest guy is always somebody nobody knows about.''

Haag plans to bring roughhouse boxing back to Juneau in October. Part of the profits go to help the Juneau-Douglas Boxing Club.


Semifinal results

Lightweight (under 164 pounds) - J.R. Diamond wins third-round TKO over Kenny Frick; Mike McClure wins 2-1 decision over Fernando Pintang.

Middleweight (165-190) - John Smith III wins 2-1 decision over Randy Dennis; Victor Littlefield wins thirdround TKO over Graylen Franson.

Heavyweight (191 and up) - Lui Fenumiai wins first-round knockout over Art Hughes; Russ Stevens wins third-round TKO over Wilson Walz.

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