‘Black Rhino’ headlines April 23 pro boxing card


01.04.05 – By Dan McDonald: “The Black Rhino” has fought all over the U.S., facing name fighters such as Mike Tyson, current WBO world heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster and former Olympian Lawrence Clay-Bey. He’s fought in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Kenner, Westwego and Marksville, not to mention Houston, Biloxi and Bay St. Louis..

But Clifford Etienne has never fought in his hometown, and he’ll make his first-ever appearance in Lafayette to headline the “Battle at the Blackham” professional boxing card April 23 at Blackham Coliseum.

“I’m a country boy, born in Lafayette and grew up in New Iberia and St. Martinville,” Etienne said Thursday. “This is my spot, my area. I’ve been a lot of places, but here when you pass by people wave at you.”

Etienne (29-3, 20 KOs) will be in the heavyweight co-main event of an eight-bout professional card staged by Dana Pitcher Productions. Pitcher promoted a highly-successful pro card at Blackham last June.

“We had 4,600 people there last time,” Pitcher said Thursday at a press conference to announce the card.

“This time, we’re dropping ticket prices and are going to have a lot more reasonably-priced tickets so people can bring their families and friends.”

Tickets range from $18 for general admission to $60 for ringside table seats and will go on sale Saturday at ShopRite and TobaccoPlus locations in Acadiana and at Piper’s Haven. On Saturday only, 500 general admission tickets will be on sale at Prejean’s Restaurant, site of Thursday’s press conference, for $10 each from noon until 8 p.m.

The card will also include highly-regarded 6-foot-9, 280-pound heavyweight “Railroad” Tye Fields (32-1, 30 KOs) of Des Moines, Iowa, and Dallas lightweight “Handsome” Hector Beltran (8-0, 7 KOs).

Blake “The Candyman” Prevost (3-0, 1 KO), a cruiserweight from Lawtell, and women’s middleweight Robyn Lerille (1-0) of New Orleans are already signed for the card. Pitcher said that several other area fighters will fill out the card, which will be announced next week.

“We’re going to have 40 good rounds of boxing,” Pitcher said. “People know that we’re not fighter-builders, we’re fight promoters. We’re not going to have guys with good records in there with fighters that are 3-29. That’s not going to happen.”

“Dana has put on some very successful shows around here,” said Deirdre Gogarty, the former women’s world champion who now sits on the Louisiana State Boxing Commission. “He has quality fighters in his shows and he’s a very active promoter, and that helps keep boxing healthy and strong in Louisiana.”

Pitcher is also promoting a show at Delta Downs’ new events center in Vinton one week later on April 30 with local fighters Jeremy Duplechain of Church Point and Kasha Chamblin of Lafayette.

The local highlight of the Blackham card will be Etienne, who lost to Tyson in 2003 at The Pyramid in Memphis – Tyson’s last win. Since then, Etienne had won six straight outings before losing by TKO to Calvin Brock in Houston in January.

“All the great ones have had setbacks,” said Etienne, who won his first 19 fights after beginning his career at the late age of 26 thanks to a 10-year armed robbery conviction. “There are some people that didn’t give up on me, and those people are here in Louisiana.

“I represent Louisiana every time I go somewhere to fight, and I take that seriously. I now when I go into the ring, all the people here have my back. Louisiana’s never had a heavyweight champion, and I still plan to be that.”

“It’s an honor to be fighting in the same building with Clifford Etienne,” said Prevost, who recently turned pro after a 230-bout amateur career. “I haven’t fought here since I was in the Marines, so I’m really looking forward to it.”