Fight Night a Big Hit

Sep 092003
Authors: Taylour Nelson

Cigarette smoke filled the air, the lights dimmed and Mick Jagger wailed through the speakers. As the two opponents step onto the bloodstained floor the loud rumble of anticipation moved through the crowd. The first punch is thrown and the blood begins to flow.

Fighters lined up at 7 p.m. to be weighed in at The Aggie Theatre on Monday ready to participate in an amateur boxing competition. Massaging their muscles, taping their hands and sizing up their competition, the fighters waited wide-eyed for their turn in the ring.

“I’m gonna pretend it’s a guy I hate,” said Hanbyul Yoon, sophomore construction management major.

To be a participant in Monday’s fight, the boxers were required to be beginners with no more than ten amateur fights of experience.

The fighters ranged from Ben Wertsch, a freshman history major from Alabama who had been home schooled since the fourth grade to Nick Lynch, a sophomore from Red Rocks Community College in Golden, who won the heavy weight championship in Boulder last year.

Wertsch tried to prepare by watching Rocky fight Mister T he said.

“I just watched Rocky and I’m not the only one either,” he said. “I had no training whatsoever, I thought I’d just show up and hit someone.”

Wertsch surprised the crowd and himself when he won his first fight of the night.

“I was stunned that people were actually cheering my name, I was just swinging,” Wertsch said.

Fighters wore a wide variety of fighting attire, including jeans and belts, hooded sweatshirts, pajama pants and sport pants.

As the participants looked on, the fighters in the ring all stared through the haze of smoke and bright lights with the same look of overwhelming desire to hit their opponent.

Fight Night began in a backyard in Fort Collins. Shane Swartz, owner and promoter of Knockout Events, began boxing when he was four years old. When he reached high school, he was known as an amateur fighter and held boxing matches in his parent’s backyard, where he built his own ring.

As the fights got bigger so did the publicity. In 1994, during his senior year of high school, Sports Illustrated wrote about Swartz and his backyard boxing. Around 500 people would crowd into the backyard to watch the fights, Swartz said.

Now, Knockout Events provides entertainment in towns from Utah, Nebraska and Kansas to New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Wearing his black and white striped referee shirt, Swartz called the rounds and jumped between the fighters Monday, dodging flying punches at the end of each round.

“Their adrenaline is going and it’s hard to stop,” Swartz said. “Those are some tough kids.”

Swartz moved to Europe five years after graduating high school to pursue a professional boxing career and sold his company to a man named Lonnie Noah. Noah is the owner and promoter of Noah Sports, the company that now hosts Fight Night at the Rock, the Sundance and the White Buffalo among others along the Front Range.

Along with the boxing matches, Noah provides other types of entertainment throughout the night.

“The crowd likes the involvement,” Noah said.

Noah Sports has 15 sponsors and free giveaways throughout the night, along with a $300 dance contest in the ring and card carrying “Hottie Boomalotties.”

These are women who carry the cards telling the audience what round the fighters are in.

“People love it, I’ve sold out every show for three years,” Noah said.

On Monday night, six women competed against each other, surprising even the male boxers.

Lissa Ward, one of the female contestants and a junior education major, had never thrown a punch in her life, but on Monday night she was in a boxing ring with over 500 spectators cheering every punch she threw and blow she received.

“All I wanted was to hit someone and get hit,” Ward said. “It was everything I expected and more.”

Along with male and female boxing, Fight Night has hosted an eclectic mix of people who are interested in fighting, including a husband against his wife, people in wheelchairs and little people in an event called “Microboxing.”

Phil Duran weighing in at 70 pounds and 3-feet-3-inches and James Dherrera, 4-feet-6-inches and 220 pounds, fought in the “Microboxing” competition on Monday at the Aggie. Dherrera wanted to let people know that people his size are capable of boxing.

“When the word is out and they see that I’ve done it, they’ll want to do it too,” Dherrera said.

Students have different opinions on the event, as many have heard about fight night through friends or flyers handed out on the Plaza.

Deserae Frisk, a freshman studying sociology, is concerned with the risk involved with amateur boxing.

“I’m not supportive, if people want to do professional boxing, they should go to get training or instruction because people can really injure themselves,” Frisk said.

Both Knockout Events and Noah Sports provide gloves and protective padding as well as an insurance waiver to be signed by each contestant.

“Until people see it, they think we are promoting violence,” Swartz said. “But no one has ever told me that they didn’t enjoy the show.”

After participating in the event, freshman Matt Martin has a new found respect for boxers.

“I like boxers a lot more now. I had no idea…how na/ve I was,” Martin said.

Doug Tait, freshman biology major, competed in his first boxing match on Monday and although he did not win, he is glad he participated.

“A week from now I rather would have done it than not,” Tait said.

Perhaps best stated by the self-proclaimed “bloodiest one there,” Tait posed the question: “What can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?

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