13.10.05 -By Christine Maynard: I met Kassim Ouma, and his friend and training partner, Musa Bukenya, also from Uganda, on the flight from Houston to Philly. I’d only read the facts about Kassim’s life six hours earlier, an online excerpt of an Esquire article about what happened to Kassim as a child, and what, unfortunately, is still occurring to thousands. Children are kidnapped by rebel armies, forced to be mercenaries, witnessing and partaking in atrocities. In Uganda, the Night Commuters are hordes of children who travel en masse in the evening to “safe” areas, in order to avoid being stolen from their families by rebels.
Envisioning a second grader whose job is to carry and use an AK-47 is an impossible koan; most of us have no reference point. In an interview with Bryant Gumbel, Ouma was repeatedly asked if there was anything he would do differently, upon reflection. It didn’t compute with Gumbel that Ouma was only 5 ½ years old when he was whisked away, along with his class mates, in a garbage truck, and taken into the bush, where he was transformed into a soldier.
The first night, the children were warned not to cry. When they awakened, a trash pile was shown to them, as a lesson. It was a heap of dead bodies of classmates who had whimpered.
I caught a ride with Kassim and Musa from Philly to the Borgata Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City. Ouma’s manager, Tom Moran picked us up. Kassim was gregarious, breezy, filling Tom in on his training, ringing up family and friends on multiple continents. But there is always the subtext, and the past is omnipresent. He was in good form, confident, and ready to show the world that he was back, focused and a champion. Referring to his loss, he stated “I’ve made a mess and I need to clean it up. I’ll let my hands talk for me.”
He had spent one month at Willie Savannah’s gym, with trainer Ronnie Shields. This camp reinforced the importance of eating well, three squares of whole foods, as well as the benefits of staying ultra-hydrated. He commented that the more he ate, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, and the more water he drank, the more he dropped weight, and the better he felt. His running was strong, with plenty of sprint work.
At the pre-fight conference, Bernard Hopkins, representing Golden Boy East, the promoter, along with Peltz Promotions, addressed the fighters and the audience. “Put on a good show. Make yourself proud, make your families proud” was Bernard’s advice for all of the fighters.
Regarding Rock Allen, (Rock Allen vs. Candelario Herrera) Bernard stated “Rock has been to many training camps, and has learned inside and outside of the ring.”
In the Ernesto Zapeda vs. Demetrius Hopkins fight,
a title was no longer on the line, which was a huge disappointment to Demetrius. Ernesto had not been in the country long enough to qualify. Bernard gently, yet firmly, instructed his nephew, Demetrius, to let go of the fact that the match was no longer for a title, assuring him that opportunity would present itself in the imminent future.
Alfredo Cuevas stated, “I’m not as young, (as his opponent) and I stay ready because you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself.” After Ouma said he was going to knock him out, Cuevas responded “It’s kind of hard to do that from the floor looking up.”
Boxing adages and advice continued to flow later, at the Irish Pub, after the press conference, regarding boxing in general. Ouma’s agent, Ron Boddy, from the UK, pithily stated, “ In boxing, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”
In the ballroom of the Borgata, the ring was assembled by a fighter from Philly and other workers from the gym which loaned the ring. Everything except the royal blue canvas embossed with sponsor’s names was transported from the gym.
The pace quickens. New faces appear. The promoter, Russell Peltz of Peltz Promotions moves rapidly, with hurried speech, utilizing a walkie talkie. Techies look at red markings on crumpled paper, like treasure maps, and discuss ice flow. Metal interlocking gates form a perimeter around the ring. Organza curtains backlit with scarlet lighting accent each side of the ball room. Unlike the MGM, with perfectly cleaned plush black carpets, dated, worn floor coverings are punctuated by errant forks, wine corks and burn marks. The ceiling is lattice, revealing wires, pulleys, condensers, and ductwork. The event is televised by HBO More…Latin America.
Rock Allen TKO’s Candelario Herrera
Rock’s robe is embossed with “ Concrete Jungle.” He is appropriately named, for he is rock hard, and solid. The former Olympian from Philadelphia has a fast jab and goes to the face. Herrera’s best round was the first. The fight was stopped at 2:15 of round 2. Allen is now 3-0.
Alfred Kinsey KO’s Victor Paz
Kinsey dominates with heavy hands. Paz gets a flurry once or twice. The ref continuously breaks them up. Paz is knocked down in the beginning of round four, and appears dizzy upon finishing the count. His mouthpiece flies out twice. And at 2:59 into round 4 of 6 Paz is KO’d, on the canvas, legs at odd angles. Hurt. *Kinsey’s trainer is Bill Johnson, father of recently deceased fighter Leavander Johnson.
Gerado Arcos wins UD over Mike Dargan
In this welterweight fight, Dargan’s corner shouted “Take my angle and blaze! Let it go, Mike!” His left jab was good. And Mike is an acute slipper. Arcos exhibits control, too much, apparently, as his deep voiced corner barks a change in strategy. Arcos is now 2-0, and Dargan is 1-.1
Philip McCants defeats Sheldon Rudolph
Philip won, although he was cut quite badly over one eye. A majority win to McCants, a Jr. Middleweight who is now 5-1. Rudolph is evened up at 3-3.
Demetrius Hopkins overwhelms Ernesto Zepeda
Demetrius really worked Zapeda over, and kept attacking. Zapeta, bloodied, came back in the fourth round, getting a good upper cut in to the body, but Demetrius’ heavy hands proved too much. He just kept blasting; two to the face, 4 hits to the body. Zapeda continued to re-engage and liven up, fighting with everything he had, which is the earmark of most Mexican fighters.
In the seventh round, Demetrius comes out jabbing like crazy. Zepeda clocks him and Hopkins actually appears dazed for a second, but recovers his composure immediately. In the 9th round, Zepeda made the count after a formidable flurry by Hopkins, but the fight was wisely called.
Kassim Ouma KO’s Alfredo Cuevas
He takes a good punch, this Cuevas. And he took plenty in this match. Yet, Ouma knocked him down twice before the fourth round stoppage. In the final moments, he was backing up from Ouma, having taken too much punishment. The promoter began yelling “Stop the fight.” Cuevas was supporting himself on one leg and his face was bleeding. The fight was called. It was Cuevas’ first knockout defeat.