On Saturday, Kimbo Slice participated in his fourth professional boxing match. The fight took place in Springfield, Mo., where one of the world’s most trafficked Bass Pro Shops sits gloriously in the heart of the city.
I mention this only to point out what Kimbo was up against in vying for the local dollar. Largemouth fishing is, after all, beginning to heat up on Table Rock Lake.
Did his opponent, veteran mixed martial artist Brian Green, take a dive?
Maybe. I’m no expert in thespian matters. What is plain, though, is that the whole thing looked a little dicey.
When somebody in Green’s corner yelled that 15 seconds of fighting remained, Green did what all fighters on the cusp of winning a fight with a high profile novelty do -- he dropped his hands and made his chin open for business. And then he crumbled almost comically after taking a short left uppercut thrown from the holster of fatigue. With three seconds left on the clock, Green was on his back. He did not scramble for his marbles on the floor, nor did he try and get up at all. He lay there in a conscious-looking state, taking his count while suspicious glances were exchanged by onlookers. And later on, by those curious enough to Google this camcorder affair.
Fixed? Who knows. The thing didn't look entirely sincere. But maybe the better question would be: is there anything appealing left in watching Kimbo fight? He shouldn’t have had to come back and beat a journeyman like Green dramatically, should he?
At this point, Slice, the one-time sideshow phenom from the back alleys of Miami, is an off-Broadway production performing on the bootleg circuit that requires search engines to find. At his best, he was only good in bare-knuckle situations against bouncers and area tough guys. He looked imposing in a tank top, and somebody (as in, Dana White) once very accurately summed him up as “the toughest man at the barbecue.” That’s true. But he’s not the toughest man in the prize ring, where tough guys are all you find.
Now, Kimbo is 38 and mostly debunked, yet we still glance at him when we can. We are voyeurs, after all.
As for Kimbo? He’s raking in what money can still be found in the twilight of an unconventional career.
We know that EliteXC pushed a pile of cash behind his myth when he was a “YouTube sensation” that was to be converted into a civilized cage fighter. We know, too, that the promotion wouldn’t have minded if Seth Petruzelli, a late fill-in for Ken Shamrock the night the myth shattered on national television, had eased up a little bit. (Maybe the matchmakers should have went with Aaron Rosa, the other option that night to step in with Slice).
Either way, the careful foundation the promotion built on a gold-toothed street brawler took 14 seconds to become a house of cards. Which didn’t end anything other than EliteXC (that iteration of the promotion, anyway). As for Slice? The next thing you know, he was breaking Nielsen records trying to make it into the UFC on the “Ultimate Fighter 10.” He got licked by Roy Nelson early in the season -- in front of millions. Then he put on an eyesore of a fight against Houston Alexander in his official UFC debut when everybody expected free-swinging menace.
Except for maybe his beatdown of Tank Abbott in 2008 -- and possibly the ear-popping bout with James Thompson three months later -- Slice has never lived up to expectations outside the alley. The end of his MMA career came via a second-round TKO to Matt Mitrione.
Only it didn’t spell the end of Slice. He boxes now for whatever shaky camcorders are on hand to catch the action. In this way, he’s come full circle. Only now, he’s doing it in the prizefighting ring, where gloves are worn and shadiness has an ounce of scrutiny. His relevancy depends on your taste, but he banks on the power of his fetish market.
And even before Saturday's funny-looking knockout of Green, you have to think that it's Kimbo who needs what’s left of the sideshow connoisseurs more than they need him.