After heavyweight plodder Jay Jenkins spit out his mouthpiece for a third time during an undercard bout, an exuberant fan eloquently summed up the frustrations of fight-starved Tallahasseans.
“Breathe through your nose, you fat turd!”
With that exhortation, Tallahassee welcomed boxing back to the Civic Center last Thursday.
A rambunctious crowd of 1,600 groaned at a main event filled with more clinches than punches and cheered a motley assortment of preliminary fights.
Chicago’s Gabe Rodriguez earned a decision over Vince Harris in the headlining welterweight bout, but the crowd soured on the pair’s constant holding.
A vicious ninth round low blow by Rodriguez to Harris’ nether regions brought a collective wince and moan from the Civic Center crowd, but otherwise, the crowd sat quietly through the fight.
Since Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions put together the card, early-arriving fans were forced to sit through a video montage of the boxer’s knockouts, interspersed with shots of adoring women crying and screaming at the sight of de la Hoya.
Once the Golden Boy’s video ego stroke ended, light heavyweight Steve “Spider” Hemphill kicked off the evening with a second round knockout of Tourey McNeil.
Hemphill resembled Tommy Hearns without the skills, but he caught McNeil walking in and drilled him with a straight right hand.
The fans were with Hemphill from the outset. With fights like these, where unknown club fighters from outside the area dominate the card, I honestly think fans favor the fighter with the more colorful nickname.
A gentleman sitting behind me reinforced my theory by repeatedly shouting, “C’mon Spider!” I overheard him tell his buddy, “Spider… I kinda’ like that.”
This same gentleman later bet his friend four beers that Luis De La Rosa would best former Olympian Jose Navarro in their junior bantamweight bout.
De La Rosa forgot to bring a catchy nickname into the ring, so the beer wagerer resorted to, “C’mon now!”
Sadly, De La Rosa didn’t “c’mon”, losing a lopsided unanimous decision.
Sharice Gray pounded out a majority decision over Tinitia Austin in a women’s welterweight fight. The women fought a spirited four rounds, eliciting numerous “Them girls can fight!” from the crowd.
If nothing else, Gray and Austin reassured the crowd that at least two fighters had actually trained for their matches.
Jenkins’ fight with Randy “Roundhouse” Martin resembled a barfight at a biker bar. Too bad nobody felt the urge to grab a pool cue and break it up before things got out of hand.
The two started wheezing and panting midway through the first round. After two warnings to Jenkins for spitting out his mouthpiece, the referee waved the fight off, awarding Martin a third round TKO and his first professional victory.
I’m sure Roundhouse will tell his grandkids that he beat the mouthpiece out of his opponent for his first win. Good for him. Yo Rock-o.
A lone local heavyweight fighter did make a brief appearance, but the hometown support didn’t help an obviously out-of-shape fighter.
In his professional debut, “Quincy’s Own” Otis Harley showed up with a gut hanging over his trunks and left with a quick loss, courtesy of James Monroe.
Hopefully Otis will get another opportunity to represent Quincy in the ring, but here’s a tip: you have to put in the roadwork, Otis. Quincy deserves nothing less.
The next fight card at the Civic Center takes place on April 26. Hope to see everyone there.