When George Foreman put Joe Frazier on his back in the first round of their epic 1973 World Heavyweight Championship boxing match, legendary sports commentator Howard Cosell knew he was watching history in the making and welcomed it with a now-classic spin.
"Down goes Frazier!" – a three-word sentence that Cosell yelled at least six times – is a sound bite for the ages. Down went the champ, along with all the doubters who thought that Foreman couldn't defeat the tough-as nails Frazier.
After speaking with Memphis boxing trainer Pete Mitchell, I had the same feeling about anyone who doubts that Friday night boxing in Memphis couldn't live again and become as strong as it was back in the days.
Mitchell, a former amateur fighter himself, has two fighters on Friday night's (Nov. 30), 7-bout card at The Eclipse Convention Center at 4532 Getwell Rd. Dubbed "MMA invades Boxing," the event is being promoted by Monyette Flowers of Flowers Power Boxing, along with Cliff Dates and CDA Promotions.
Fans will have an opportunity to see two of MMA's elite fighters, Brian "The Law" Hall and Brandon Harder, as they test their boxing skills. Hall and Harder are both Memphis Police Department officers whose definition of civic duty includes working with local youth boxers.
Tri-State Defender: What is your vision for boxing in Memphis? What do you believe can be accomplished here with this type of event?
Pete Mitchell: Well, there are a lot of promoters around town that are doing boxing now. I'm telling you that somebody is going to rise to the top. We have more boxers training for the pros now. Then our amateur programs are getting better. I'm looking for big things out of boxing in Memphis. I'm sure we're going to have some world-class boxers here. Many people may doubt this and be skeptical and all that's fine, but I feel like it's going to be surprisingly big. These guys are going to end up being household names....
I took up boxing back when I attended Melrose High School back in 1949-1952. Back then, boxing was a school sport at the time. All of the schools participated in boxing just like they do basketball and football now.
TSD: When did you first get involved with training boxers?
PM: I got involved with boxing when I came back to Memphis from going to college at Southern University in 1956. It was during this time that I became one of the trainers for Dr. Willie Herenton. When Herenton won his Golden Glove in 1957, I was one of his trainers.
They had some good boxers on the circuit back then. Muhammad Ali was one of the young guys in that group as well. The Golden Gloves were held in Chicago back then at Chicago Stadium. Dr. Herenton was part of the Paducah, Ky. region and he was a good fighter. He was a tall guy and had some good punches on him. He fought at 175 pounds back then.
TSD: Where do you train your fighters?
PM: I train them at the Memphis Police Gym over there across the street from the Liberty Bowl at the Fair Grounds. Coming up Friday I have two fighters on the card, Tristan "T-N-T" Todd and heavyweight Rodricka Ray. Rodricka Ray and (his opponent) Jamal Woods are going to have a good one in the heavyweight division because they got some really bad blood going. But both of the fighters will be fighting six round fights and I'm sure that Friday is going to be an exciting time.
AT A GLANCE
• "MMA invades Boxing"
• Friday (Nov. 30), The Eclipse Convention Center, 4532 Getwell Rd.
• Doors open at 6:30 pm. First bout, 7 p.m.
• Tickets: $30 ringside, $20 general.
• Promoters: Flowers Power Boxing (Monyette Flowers), along with CDA Promotions (Cliff Dates)
• The card: Memphis' own "Flowers Power Brothers," with their cousin, Marvin "Papi Gallo" Jones, along with Tristan "T-N-T" Todd and Donald "Bulldog" Ward.
• MMA elite fighters Brian "The Law" Hall and Brandon Harder also will test their boxing skills.
• Guest appearance: Floyd Mayweather Sr. (father of boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr.) and his rising star female sensation, Yolanda "Mz. Knockout" Ezell.
• Discount tickets available for fans that bring a food donation for the Mid-South Food Bank (MFSB).
• For more information, contact Clift Dates with CDA Promotions at 901-340-5261.
(Kelvin Cowans can be reached at (kelvincowans@ hotmail.com)