It was memorable for all the right reasons as the promoters and government officials had prayed for. Cayman Knockout’s inaugural running was the fantastic success from start to finish.
The weather did not disappoint, all six matches were well contested even though none went the distance and the place was packed to the rafters despite the controversy in the build up over Charles ‘The Killa’ Whittaker’s appearance.
The Royal Watler Terminal has hosted many events but few could have generated as much interest as this one.
With an audience of millions watching live on Showtime TV, it was a great opportunity to showcase the Cayman Islands to a virgin market.
So if you see tourists with bent noses and scuffed knuckles in the future, it could well be as a result of this production.
Promoted by Los Angeles-based Goossen Tutor Promotions in conjunction with the Cayman government’s Ministry of Tourism, this was a low-risk investment by Minister Charles Clifford.
Had the weather been foul, Whittaker could not be matched or the main fights fell apart, the $1 million commitment would have been a poor investment.
As it turned out, it was money well spent. The ripple effect on Cayman’s tourism will certainly give a good return.
The 2,000-odd crowd was suitably warmed up with a light-welterweight bout between Ty Barnett, from Washington DC and Pavel Miranda from Tijuana.
Miranda had weighed in a couple of pounds heavy the previous day but being the warrior that he is, Barnett took the fight anyway.
It was a shrewd decision as he broke Miranda up for three rounds before finishing him at the start of the fourth with two body shots so vicious that the Mexican fell to the canvas doubled up.
Cayman ref Nayon ‘Donie’ Anglin only counted to five before wisely waving it off and calling in medical assistance.
Miranda took several minutes just to be able to get off the canvas and onto a stool but he soon recovered. So that set the tone for the evening; a hard, all-action contest that could sway either way.
Eddie ‘Fast’ Chambers is Goossen’s main heavyweight hope. His sole lost in 31 bouts was in January in a world title eliminator and against Raphael Butler on Friday he needed to win impressively to make a world title fight plausible.
Butler, 26, had only lost four times in 35 bouts and with 24 knockouts on his record evidently carries immense power for a 6ft 3in fighter weighing 250lbs. This was for the NABF heavyweight title.
Chambers, two inches shorter and 33lbs lighter, looked like a cruiserweight in comparison. Fleshy and looking capable of boiling down to the cruiserweight limit of 200lbs, yet Chambers has genuine heavyweight power.
He is a Philadelphian, a city with a legacy of great ring warriors; a blue collar place that produced some of the toughest fighters of all time, including ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Matthew Saad Muhammad and Bernard ‘The Executioner’ Hopkins.
Chambers’ ring name is also not a misnomer as his timing and speed of punch, ringcraft and solid chin made a mockery of the apparent physical mismatch.
By round five it was evident who was destined to win. A Caymanian woman supporting Butler shouted in desperation: ‘Bite his ear off, Raphael!’
By the next round it was all over. A left-right to the head stiffened Butler’s legs and he would have fallen but for the ropes. Chambers’ follow up barrage dropped Butler heavily through the ropes.
He rose on shaky legs at nine but referee Bill Clancy wisely waved it over. Chambers, 24, lived up to his billing. Despite his comparative smallness, Chambers’ speed and resilience can take him a long way in a division lusting for fresh talent.
Wayne ‘Pocket Rocket’ McCullough made his ring return after three years out. The popular Irishman, based in Las Vegas, faced California’s Juan Ruiz a light-punching super-bantam who had lost five times in 26 bouts but was nevertheless considered an extremely tough match for the former world champion after such a long absence. It was for the NABF featherweight championship.
In typical fashion, McCullough swarmed in and traded with Ruiz for five rounds and was slightly ahead on the judges’ card.
But just before the bell rang for the start of the sixth, his corner – including his wife Cheryl – called it off. The ageing champ no longer had the spark.
McCullough took the mic and announced: ‘This is probably my last fight. I thank everybody for their support over the years, especially my promoter, Dan Goossen.’
Ruiz, 29, paid tribute to the brave Belfast-raised fighter who won a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics, saying: ‘This guy has all the heart in the world. I remember seeing him as a little kid on TV.’
Jubilant in victory touched with a sliver of sadness at ending a great fighter’s career.
Things were heating up by now and with the singing of the national anthems, then a spectacular fireworks display, the scene was set for the big two fights.
Local announcers Nikolai Hill and Jay Ehrhart of Radio Cayman made way for celebrated emcee Jimmy Lennon Jr.
Ronald ‘Chosen One’ Hearns stepped up next with dad ‘Hitman’ Tommy in his corner. With a legendary fighter as your father, things cannot be easy as expectations are so high, yet Ronald has not disappointed so far in amassing an 18-0 record (14KOs).
Taking a step up in class against a strong and determined Jose Luis Gonzalez looking to cause a major upset was filled with potential disasters.
Sure enough, Gonzalez’s bravery was beyond doubt as round after round he absorbed big shots from the faster, more skilful Hearns who had to take some heavy punches himself from the Kansas City fighter.
By the seventh it was evident that only a knockout would turn things for Gonzalez, 26. Shipping punishment with every flurry, his corner wisely called it off after two minutes and one second.
Significantly, Gonzalez did not protest. He had gone beyond the call of duty and his corner wisely saved him from a career-threatening beating.
Detroit-based Hearns, 29, at 6ft 3ins is built like dad and if he continues improving with these sorts of matches, should be ready to emulate dad and challenge for a world title by next year.