"This is going to be one of the best fights Denver has had in a long time," promises Golden resident Trevor Wittman, promoter of Friday night's bout at the Denver Coliseum.
Wittman hopes for 7,500 fight fans at what is billed as the National Boxing Association Junior Middleweight World Championship. And while such estimates might seem optimistic for the first-time event, he says the appeal of pugilism -- which some decry as brutal -- is timeless: "People like to watch other people fight."
In the main event, local boxer Verno Phillips will go twelve rounds with Christian Lloyde Joseph of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also trading blows will be DaVarryl Williamson and Ed White, in a featured ten-round heavyweight match. And fans will get to see "Lightning" Lonnie Smith, a veteran former titleholder, try to last six rounds with Shane Lanham. As always in such events, someone could be kissing the canvas sooner than the scheduled end of the fight
"This card has a good chance of having some great knockouts" in half of the six fights, Wittman predicts. That, in turn, would rock the fans harder than Marilyn Manson. "They go nuts," he observes.
Still, no matter how fierce the battle, ring decorum is expected to stop short of the behavior displayed when heavyweight Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of his opponent's ear several years ago; the stink from that episode continues to taint pro boxing. The troubled Tyson has been forced to wander from state to state in search of a boxing commission that will issue him a fight license. Yet contrary to what many critics and boxing officials believe, Wittman doesn't see the publicity surrounding Tyson's antics or Fox Television's exploitative Celebrity Boxing as negatives. Rather, he thinks of the hype as a way to reach new fans.
"Our generation isn't as into boxing as older generations were," he notes.
Wittman, a tenth-grade dropout, credits boxing with giving him direction in life. "I was always told as a kid that I would never amount to anything," he says. "[Boxing] made me believe in myself; it gave me self-confidence. Now when I face an obstacle, I know that I can get through it." Wittman opened the T's K.O. boxing gym two and a half years ago after a hyper-inflated lung ended his hopes of turning professional.
Indeed, backers such as Wittman assert that boxing's benefits may boost its popularity with younger audiences. Wittman starts training boxers as young as eight years old, and the discipline is intense. "Boxing is about being in the best shape of your life," he says.
Although Friday's fight is more about flash than fitness, it's not merely a men's smoker: Wittman expects both men and women to attend. He had even hoped some of the once gentler sex would be inside the ropes, because, he says, "female boxing is really starting to blow up. Their style is really different. They go at it." He had lined up a female boxer for this fight but couldn't find an opponent.
Still, despite the nod to women, there will be at least one retro touch: Strolling women in bikinis and high heels will hold round cards during breaks in the action. But the Coliseum is smoke-free, so patrons must save the stogies for the champagne-and-cigar party afterward at the Denver Hyatt.
Whoever wins, it could be a victory celebration for Wittman, who thinks that Denver is ready for more. "It's not really that big here, but I'm trying to bring it back," he says. "Denver has a ton of sports fans, so it should be a big place for boxing."