Fight nights hit Toledo in December

Toledo boxers Douglas, Vargas promote events downtown

11/21/2012
BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Former world heavyweight boxing champion James
Former world heavyweight boxing champion James "Buster" Douglas, left, bumps fists with Bronco McKart, a super welterweight boxer from Monroe, Mich., during a news conference Tuesday at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Toledo.

When speak­ing at the Pur­ga­tory Fight Ser­ies press con­fer­ence Tues­day in Toledo, James “Buster” Douglas had two fi­nal words for a room­ful of me­dia mem­bers.

“Go Bucks,” Douglas said.

No doubt Satur­day’s an­nual Mich­i­gan-Ohio State tilt was on the Co­lum­bus na­tive’s mind, even as Douglas, a for­mer world heavy­weight box­ing cham­pion, ap­peared at the Grand Plaza Ho­tel to help an­nounce a pair of box­ing and mixed mar­tial arts events that are sched­uled to be held next month in Toledo.

An­nounced dur­ing one of the more her­alded weeks for sports in the area — as Douglas noted — the Hun­ting­ton Center will host the Pur­ga­tory Fight Ser­ies 10 at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, while the Grand Plaza will host the Pur­ga­tory Fight Ser­ies All Pro Box­ing event at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21.

“In box­ing, this is where it all starts,” Douglas said. “Be­fore you get to the HBOs and the ESPNs, this is where you hone your skills and pre­pare you for the big show. We need shows like this, and I’m a big-time sup­porter of some­thing like this.”

In 1990, Douglas be­came the first boxer to knock out pre­vi­ously un­de­feated cham­pion Mike Ty­son in To­kyo — a fight in which he was a 42-to-1 un­der­dog.

After liv­ing through a three-day di­a­betic coma in 1994, Douglas over­hauled his life and has be­come an anti-bul­ly­ing ad­vo­cate, as well as the au­thor of “Buster's Back­yard Bar-B-Q,” a cook­book geared to­ward di­a­bet­ics.

And he’s got­ten back in­volved in box­ing, which, as of late, has taken a back­seat to the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of mixed mar­tial arts.

“You have to put in qual­ity work,” Douglas said of box­ing. “We have to bring in guys who have tre­men­dous skills, and you see the art in it, as well.”

But, he said of MMA and box­ing, “they both have a strong pres­ence.”

North­west Ohio has hosted pro-am MMA events since 2010, but the Dec. 7 mixed-mar­tial arts event will be the first pro­fes­sional event hosted in Toledo.

Lukas Nieto, 4, and his brother Zeke Kniffen, 10, get autographs from mixed martial arts fighters including 2004 Olym­pian Devin Var­gas, a Start High School grad­u­ate who is now a pro­fes­sional boxer.
Lukas Nieto, 4, and his brother Zeke Kniffen, 10, get autographs from mixed martial arts fighters including 2004 Olym­pian Devin Var­gas, a Start High School grad­u­ate who is now a pro­fes­sional boxer.

The mixed-mar­tial arts card will fea­ture nine bouts that will in­clude Hec­tor “El Toro” Urbina and An­drew “The Ab­so­lute” Huff­man, and the box­ing card two weeks later will show­case Toledo na­tive and 2004 Olym­pian Devin Var­gas, a Start High School grad­u­ate who is now a pro­fes­sional boxer.

Var­gas said he should know who his op­po­nent is by the end of the week.

Var­gas said he plans to in­ten­sify his train­ing for the bout, start­ing Sun­day.

“I’ve been keep­ing in and out of the gym and not get­ting lazy,” said Var­gas, who cap­tained the United States box­ing team at the 2004 Sum­mer Olym­pics in Athens.

Within min­utes of post­ing the news on his Face­book ac­count, Var­gas said he re­ceived plenty of re­sponses.

“It’s go­ing to be a treat for all my lo­cal fans,” Var­gas said. “They’ve been ask­ing about when I’m go­ing to fight here for the last five years.”

And while Douglas picked Ohio State, Var­gas went in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

“Mich­i­gan,” Var­gas said, with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

Con­tact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@the­blade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twit­ter @RLen­ziBlade.