International MMA event coming to city|[08/23/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mixed Martial Arts bout will be televised live by Showtime

Vicksburg Convention Center Executive Director Larry Gawronski has dealt with Miss Mississippi pageants, and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame banquets, but this week has brought an entirely new, monumental challenge: Showtime is coming to Vicksburg.

The premium cable television network is bringing the second installment of its new &#8220SHOXC: Elite Challenger Series”, a mixed martial arts card of bouts to the VCC Saturday night. The event will be televised worldwide on Showtime beginning at 10 p.m.

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&#8220Never, ever have we done something like this. We’ve never had a Showtime or HBO or any other national cable network come here to do a live, televised event. And it’s only happened in the last two weeks,” Gawronksi said.

The event Showtime is televising is a mixed martial arts bout featuring one of the sport’s more popular figures in Charles &#8220Krazy Horse” Bennett, a 155-pound lightweight. Bennett, out of Ocala, Fla., will be fighting in the main event against Victor &#8220Joe Boxer” Valenzuela out of Covina, Calif.

In 2005, the two were involved in one of MMA’s more famous brawls which ended with Bennett unconscious and lying on his back. The bout ended in a controversial draw.

The rematch was scheduled to be fought in San Jose, Calif., in June, but had to be postponed when Bennett was arrested on a parole violation in Florida and missed his flight to California.

When the fight was reset for August, Brandon MMA promoter Brian Maguire stepped up to land the fight.

&#8220Call it luck, but I was there at the right time. All they needed was a venue. And I knew where I could go,” Maguire said.

In May, Maguire put together &#8220Rage on the River I” at the VCC. The eight-bout card featured local product Jeremiah Riggs, a former Porters Chapel Academy football standout now turned MMA pro. A crowd of nearly 1,500 attended the card and Maguire was pleased with the VCC and the turnout.

&#8220The first fights in May did really well, so we knew we wanted to come back. Then Gary Shaw with Elite XC approached me and when this became a legit deal, I jumped on it,” Maguire said.

Tickets are still available at the VCC. Reserved seats are on sale at $40, general admission at $30 and box seats at $55.

&#8220The sales have gone more briskly this time. They’re doing well,” Maguire said.

Gawronksi said the VCC is set up to handle 2,000 to 2,500 people. This afternoon, Gawronski began meeting with Showtime’s production staff.

Shaw, EliteXC Live Events President, said the matchup between Krazy Horse and Joe Boxer is one of the more anticipated bouts in MMA history.

&#8220These fighters have been stewing to get at each other for two years,” Shaw said. &#8220When their scheduled June 22 bout was postponed due to extenuating circumstances, the anticipation only grew larger. Both men guarantee that the bout will not go the distance, and I guarantee it will be a match you won’t want to miss.”

Bennett (18-13-1) made his mark for the new EliteXC when he broke the jaw of KJ Noons in a February fight.

He’s already started jawing about the upcoming fight with Valenzuela in an interview with the New Jersey Journal this week.

&#8220I don’t want to say I hate the guy because the word hate is a little harsh, but I definitely don’t like him,” Bennett told the Journal. &#8220He thinks he beat me in our first fight. I am going to hush (Valenzuela) up.”

The two will meet face-to-face again Friday at a weigh-in at 5 p.m. at Rainbow Casino.

There will be four pro undercard matches and five amateur matches before the main event. The top of the undercard is a match between middleweight champ Jamie Jara (16-4) of North Highlands, Fla., and Seth Kleinbeck (7-3) out of Stuttggart, Ark.

Unbeaten Tony Bonello (15-0) will battle Jon Murphy (11-2) in a 265-pound bout.

Murphy said he didn’t have a problem going from fighting in Los Angeles to fighting in Vicksburg.

&#8220It’s a big show; it’s going to be a great feeling,” Murphy told the Desert Times out of Tempe, Arz., of his debut, which will air live on Showtime. &#8220But a fight stays a fight. I try to keep it as primal as possible.”

The other two pro bouts are Ray Lazama (8-5) vs. Hector Urbina (8-3) at 205 pounds; and Umar Luv (4-1) vs. Brandon Tierney (5-0) at 185 pounds.

The amateur card will have: Cody Love vs. Patrick Jones; Richard Rinewalt vs Chris Wright; Tell Faulkner vs. Jeremy &#8220The Butcher” Bryant; Jason Gaskin vs. Brian Albin; and James Neely vs Wes Shivers.