By Patrick Obley, Sports Editor, the Charlotte Sun, September 1, 2010
Tuesday night, ostensibly, was about the amazing return of Naples resident Freeman “The Natural” Barr to boxing after a four-year layoff.
In reality, what transpired at the Charlotte Harbor Event Center was the happy return of boxing to Charlotte County.
“War on the Peace River” has been revived after a hiatus that lasted most of this past decade. It was a drought exacerbated, obviously, by the untimely visit of Hurricane Charley, the 2004 tempest that leveled the former incarnation of the Punta Gorda auditorium. And while Barr’s stirring return from a long battle with sarcoidosis was the evening’s main event, it was the 800 or so souls looking on from ringside which made the night memorable.
“I think it was nice to get this started again,” said Bob Alexander, who handled ring announcer duties. It was a fitting gig for the local radio host, since he also happens to be a member of the class of 2010 of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame for his long career as an announcer.
“I think it was a good start,” he added.
Charlotte County is a potential boxing hotbed. Its central location on the Gulf Coast combined with a massive snowbird population in need of entertainment make it so. The area was on its way a decade ago when the very same Freeman Barr, then an up-and-coming boxer, recorded a third-round TKO against Ricky Ramirez to successfully defend his WBO-NABO super middleweight title.
When Alexander referred to the night as a “good start,” he could have said the same for Jeff Brady, who promoted the night in his first foray into the business. The evening certainly offered all the bells and whistles expected of such an affair, including excellent lighting and music, many VIP guests, and exciting fights. The atmosphere and show presentation was excellent and the $20 general admission seats were a flat-out bargain for both casual and serious boxing fans.
There were cash bars, a pre-fight dance number and the requisite, scantily clad ring card girls (bravo, Torch Bistro). Concessions were dirt cheap, which is a rare turn. There were several door prizes, and autographed boxing gloves were raffled off to benefit juvenile diabetes. Also on hand was former NFL coach Tom Olivadotti, boxing historian Lee Groves, and former world champions Glen Johnson and Pinklon Thomas, who 26 years ago to the day knocked out Tim Witherspoon for the WBC heavyweight title.
As for the action in the ring, the night’s best bout came between Daniel Kooij and Willie Chisolm, who battled evenly for six rounds before Kooij’s sound technique and surgical left jab won out in a unanimous decision. Marquis Davis destroyed Bradenton’s Carlos Rodriguez with a brutal combination just 41 seconds into their bout.
As for the main event, Barr won a majority decision against Kansas City’s Dion Stanley, a tomato can who fought with a lot of heart and won over the crowed just enough to prompt a smattering of boos when the decision was announced.
We’ll have more on Barr’s amazing return to the ring this weekend.
With any luck, we’ll see more “War on the Peace River” soon.