Oregon Casino Scores Kayo --
It was a night of significant Firsts. Saturday, Oct. 17 was the first live professional fight night in the state of Oregon in over four years, and the first pro fight card ever staged in an Oregon Indian casino. We spoiled city kids, who wondered how good the crowd could be so far from Portland, got the message the minute we walked in the door at the Seven Feathers Hotel & Casino Resort in Canyonville. The discreet little signs said "Fight Night is sold out." Every ticket for the casino's Umpqua Grand Ballroom was snapped up days before the event. The 1360 enthusiastic fans allowed through the door left plenty more outside complaining that they couldn't get in. Promoter Patrick Ortiz of Ringside Ticket, Inc is so delighted that he wants to do it all again soon.
Seven Feathers is bigger and fancier than many of the regions casinos, a classy oasis in the steep fir-clad mountains South of Roseberg on I-5. The help is extremely helpful and the ballroom is a lush, carpeted extravaganza more akin to the 80's fights in the Portland Marriott's Ballroom than to the bingo parlors of recent shows in the region. The reserved seats were solid and upholstered rather than folding metal. The round card girls were cute but not trying to threaten anybody's cardiovascular health. Dressed in t-shirts, baggy walking shorts and sneakers, they skipped, hopped, high-kicked and generally spoofed the Bikini Vamp tradition with cheery humor.
Nice details wouldn't have excused lousy fights, but the matches turned out tough and satisfying. The weigh-in the evening before went smoothly. One guy didn't bring his federal I.D. card because "they don't ask for them" in his home state, but he was able to phone somebody for the number and get it confirmed. Three boxers were over their contract weight. Two of them ran off the extra flab and the third chose to forfeit 20 percent of his purse to his opponent so his fight could go on.
A Matter of Style
The star in the ten round main event was talented and undefeated jr. welterweight DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley (140 1/2 lbs), of Sugar Ray Leonard's managerial stable in Washington D.C. Photos of Corley were featured on the big ads the casino ran in papers all over the state, and at 5'7" the guy is a muscle carved promo for fitness. He admits to loving photos of himself, and is planning a career as a fashion model when he retires from the ring. Corley is also proud of his fashion design and tailoring skills and explained to us that he's been making his own ring "outfits" since he learned to sew in a high school home-ec class. We could hardly wait to see what he'd created for his Seven Feathers appearance but he would only tease us in advance by saying, "I swore when I left the amateurs that I would never fight in trunks again."
Turns out it was a shiney red mini-skirt with six inches of white fringe and a snug little jacket to match. The horned green dragon mask on his face may have been a tad bit too much accessorizing but he took that off before the first bell sounded. Fight fans have lived through the wildly varying costumes of "Macho" Camacho and others, so the crowd would have forgiven the clothes but there was another aesthetic issue that was harder to swallow. A hotdogging, showboating fight style.
Corley stepped into the ring with a 14-0, 9 KO record. His unassuming opponent was young Miguel Angel Oliveras (6-4-1, 5 KO's) of Reno, NV. who entered the ring in a simple but colorful serape and plain red trunks. The fistic scholars were predicting that Oliveras would be dismantled early, and sure enough he came out plodding and stalking with a slow looping jab and a lack of confidence. Corley started off wary and twitchy. "Chop- chop" is slang for quick, and Corley is whiz-bang quick. He circled and swarmed Oliveras with jabs to every legal portion of the anatomy. In the second, a Corley body shot staggered Oliveras across the ring and Corley chased and clubbed him down in the corner. Oliveras got up quick and decided to survive. Some desperate winging got the crowd on Oliveras' side, and he landed a single hard left to Corley's head which inspired his new fans. Corley reacted by mocking Oliveras, taunting and posing and mugging. It's not pretty when an honest fighter is mocked and humiliated by a brilliant athlete. It wasn't pretty when Sugar Ray Leonard or Pernell Whitaker did it, and it was a severe aesthetic miscalculation by DeMarcus Corley. The crowd, like all fight crowds, hated it. They booed. They dubbed him "Lamb Chop" and"Pork Chop," "Chop Suey" and worse. Oliveras was tough and absorbent and extremely game and totally outclassed. But the crowd lifted him up even while Corley was hurting him with body shots that had one ringsider howling, "I can feel the pain from here!" Oliveras stuck it out, kept his head, soaked up hot leather and periodically managed to land something that the crowd could cheer. They booed Corley at the final bell, but roared for the gutsy Oliveras. The judges called it 100-89, 99-91, 98-91, all for Corley.
A scheduled six rounder ended early in an upset that shocked the previously undefeated Oscar look-alike Antonio Arras (149 lbs, now 4-1, 4 KO's) of Phoenix, AZ. Carlos Bojorquez (151 lbs, now 5-1-3, 5 KO's) of Mira Loma, CA clipped Arras to the head early, staggering him, and followed with an uppercut that dropped him to the deck. Arras got up quick but wobbly and the referee stopped the fight at 2:59 of the first round. TKO win for Bojorquez.
In a women's six rounder, Vicky "Hurricane" Woods (142 lbs, now 7-3-1, 4 KO's) of Chattanooga, Tennessee won a split decision in her rugged re-match with power-punching Lisa Holewyne (143 lbs, now 2-3-1, 2 KO's) of Waco, Texas. The pair fought to a draw in an August match in Yuma, AZ. One judge saw this one at 57-57, the other two called it 59-55 for Woods, whose face took a severe battering from the un-marked Holewyne. The mandatory 14 day medical suspension for a six round bout apparently scratched Wood from the semi-main event on an Oct. 30 all-women pay-per-view card in Maryland. That whole PPV show ended up canceling, but probably not for the mere lack of Vicky Woods.
Middleweight Southpaw Brock "The Bremerton Butcher" Stodden (157 1/2 lbs, now 6-2, 3 KO's) of Bremerton, WA stayed cool in the face of an early attack by Richard Gonzales (161 1/2 lbs, now 2-3-1, 2 KO's) of Los Angeles. Stodden reversed the momentum in the second round and stayed on the tiring Gonzales for the rest of the bout. Scores were all 39-37. Ranked #2 in the nation as an amateur, Ann Wolfe (157 lbs, now 1-0) of Austin, TX won a tough, close, four round split decision in her pro debut against a shorter, keeps-coming wolverine named Brenda Drexel (161 lbs, now 1-4) of Los Angeles. One judge called it 38-37 for Drexel. The other two saw it as 38-37 for Wolfe.
In the four round opener, Tony Martinez (147 lbs, now 1-0) of Woodburn, OR won a unanimous decision in his pro debut against Rogelio Chavez (148 lbs, 1-1, 1 KO) of Phoenix, AZ. A hefty right to the head dropped Chavez briefly in the final round, but he got up quick and rallied fiercely. This was a war between dueling hooks and combination barrages. The judges called it 40-35, 39-36, 40-36, all for Martinez.
Apology For All the Crap We've Dumped on Michael Buffer
The biggest name on this fight card was the announcer, Michael Buffer of "Let's Get Ready To Rumble" fame. In the past we have been guilty of slighting remarks about Buffer. We have jeered at his pancake TV makeup, at his copyright protection of the "Let's Get Ready.." phrase, and of his peddling caps, shirts and trading cards with his mug and particulars on them. As a result of Buffer's performance in Canyonville, we have changed our mind. We were wrong. The guy is a pro. Maybe even a gent. We have seen many tuxedoed dingbats try to handle microphone duties at fights in this region. They think they are stars, hired to make witty remarks about the round card girls, shrug off their mistakes in introducing bouts, and endorse the advertisers in the program. They are fops and stooges. Buffer is actually competent. He thinks he's there to give the names, weights and records clearly, and to announce the results and judges scores accurately. He delivers his trademark phrase once per evening and it works. The rest is low profile, skilled information delivery.
Between bouts hundreds of men and women lined up at ringside to get Buffer's autograph and have pictures taken with him. He patiently, pleasantly signed every napkin, program or shirt offered, and threw his arm around grinning strangers for endless flash bulbs.
What's more, he set off a binge of autographing. He informed the audience that referee Sixto Rodriguez of Medford is the former #2 light heavyweight in the world (Archie Moore refused to fight him) triggering a seige of autograph seekers for Sixto. Buffer introduced three time world champion Greg "Mutt" Haugen, of Auburn, Washington, who was working Brock Stodden's corner for the night. Haugen was immediately mobbed by those wanting to shake his hand and get his autograph. We've seen Haugen fight in his home state and never get asked for a single signature. It got so wild that every blushing, beaming pre-lim kid had people asking for their John or Joanne Hancock. Most of the decent people who bare their enormous hearts in this sport never get the recognition they deserve. On this one night, they got some.
Greg "Mutt" Haugen of Auburn, WA., is the former tough guy who became the three-time world champ in the lightweight and Jr. welterweight division. After a long lay-off Haugen resumed fighting two years ago and slowly put himself back together. His last fight was the Friday, March 27 main event televised out of San Rafael, CA by ESPN2. Haugen was on the comeback trail as a welterweight with big names on the horizon when he stepped in with the mediocre hometown hero named Paul Nave. Haugen dropped Nave in the first round and cut him in the fourth but couldn't sustain the pace and appeared to tire in the middle rounds. Nave threw more punches and managed to hurt Haugen with a wild shot in the 9th. The judges saw this 12 round decision 117-110, 118-109 and 117-110, all for Nave, who won the vacant World Boxing Federation welterwight title in the process. During the post fight interview Haugen was asked whether he would go on boxing. He told the television commentator, "I'm done."
Haugen made no excuses at the time but now he admits he had torn his right rotator cuff in the first round. After surgery and four months of rehabilitation treatment, Haugen is back in training and prepping for a re-match with Nave on Nov. 20 in San Francisco. Both men are now 38 years old and the WBF title will be on the line. The fight will not be televised.