November 2, 2012

Boxing celebrities attend 2012 Fight Night for Children

Hammer Time at Fight Night 2012
WASHINGTON DC - By John Scheinman

Fight Night for Children at the Washington Hilton is one of the very few boxing events where the fights themselves are secondary – and perhaps lower – attractions.

No children’s charity event raises more money – more than $2 million for underprivileged children in Washington – and you could see the business was serious Thursday night when a wild chopper motorcycle decked out in Washington Nationals logos and autographed by the entire team went for a cool $100,000 in an auction at ring center.

The event takes place in a massive underground ballroom of the hotel, and it is black-tie and the thousands of guests are 99 percent male, high-powered business executives and politicians set loose in a hedonistic environment. Hundreds of models, dancers and other aspiring beauties are hired each year to act as table-side hostesses, or more.

It is one of the last major events at which indoor smoking is allowed, and the place billows with cigar smoke.

The bar is open and the steaks are the size of hams. What other than fighting fits this bill?

Nothing, really.

The founding genius behind the enterprise, Joe Roberts, died last December at 59, felled young by brain cancer. He attended his final Fight Night the month before he died, and, from a wheelchair donated $5 million to his own cause.

This year, there was a tribute to Roberts and the legacy certainly looked intact. Fight Night pulls out all the stops, and while most of the people in attendance acted as if they wouldn’t know a boxing glove if it punched them in the mouth, the folks in the know certainly got their money’s worth.

You can't touch this!
After a brilliant laser light show cutting Star Wars like beams through the cigar haze, the entertainment began, and this year it was revived with the spectacular M.C. Hammer tearing through his hits surrounded by a gang of gyrating dancers. When the smoke from that detonation cleared, Michael Buffer emerged, ably assisted by the dean of D.C. public relations men, Charlie Brotman, still strong at 85, to introduce the legends of boxing.

They were almost undersold. When the great Sugar Ray Leonard, who grew up in nearby Palmer Park, Md., was the first introduced, the greats were not getting their just due. Whatever. Again, the fights are secondary to the scene.

But there was Leonard, followed by Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Buster Douglas, Gerry Cooney, Aaron Pryor, Pernell Whitaker, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who received a special award.

Yes, there were fights – three of them, matches courtesy of Eric Bottjer. The main event opponent for Bayarn Jargal fell out and terribly faded former titleholder Eric Aiken was brought in to face him. Jargal, Arlington, Va., 137, 17-3-3, knocked down Aiken, Washington, 134, 16-10-1, with the first punch he landed. Aiken, looking bloodshot and shaky, was up at eight. A follow-up right hurt Aiken, and a left hook put him down again.Aiken had nothing, and when Jargal worked him into a neutral corner, referee Joe Cooper stepped in and ended it. Terrible fight. TKO 2:24 of the first of a scheduled eight.

The first bout of the night went the full four. Jerry Forrest, Newport News, Va., 239, 2-0, scored a unanimous decision victory against Brice Ritani, Las Vegas, 279, 3-1-1. The first round was a slugfest, and Forrest proved a little faster and a little slicker, stabilizing against the bullish Ritani and showing faster hands and body punching. In the second, Ritani started well and aggressively, but Forrest moved reasonably well and neutralized the attacks and scored well to the body at the end of the round. By the fourth, Ritani had a bloody face but kept pressing forward. Both fighters were pitching in the final minute. The judges all scored 40-36 for Forrest. KO Digest had it 39-37, handing Ritani the last round.

The only other fight was shaping up as the best of the night, when referee Joe Cooper stepped in during the third round because of profuse bleeding from the nose of Steven “Too Sharp” Tyner, Akron, Ohio, 174, 3-8, in his bout against Greg Newby, Washington, 173, 2-0.

Action was brisk over the first two, and Tyner proved more capable than his record suggested. The 10 fights of experience kept him in with the decent-looking prospect Newby, who took the first two on our scorecard in good action.

Tyner will see more work with that kind of effort.

 Images by Carol Ross Joynt