The spectators near ringside for the inaugural round of cage fights at the Southwest Washington Fair included some of the area’s most prominent faces.
There was Sheriff Rob Snaza shaking hands and taking in the sights at the foot of the grandstand. Even closer to the action was Miss Lewis County herself, Marisa Hall, brandishing her trademark smile. After that it was a classic blend of the unwashed masses that grace all county fairs, with perhaps a few more boxers noses and chronic cases of cauliflower ear in the mix.
“I’m excited. I’m sitting right up front and I hope I get some blood on me!” exclaimed Hall just prior to the first fisticuffs of the evening.
Once things got going there were spray tanned ring girls between rounds, bass heavy DJ sets in the grandstands, and drunken twenty-something dudes shadow boxing in the sunset. Although she managed to steer clear of any bodily fluids in her front row seat Hall was most certainly treated to an eventful evening of brute force competition within the chain link ring.
The fights featured several regional gyms including Fight School Fitness of Chehalis which acted as a host to the Xumout promoted event. Physical Impact of Longview was also represented and Northwest Combat of Kelso had the best night of any program by claiming two kickboxing championship belts.
In the first undercard match Aaron Rodriguez defeated Zach Torres of Fight School Fitness in a 125-pound kickboxing match that ended when Torres could no longer continue.
The second fight was a much more spirited affair that played out like an old fashioned donnybrook. Paul O’Neal, a man who embraces his Irish heritage, first stepped into the ring wearing a traditional herringbone tweed cap to go with his classic short boxer shorts. His opponent, Ryan Reude of Physical Impact, sported a short-crop faux hawk and eyes reserved to taking a beating with good form. As the fight bore on O’Neal landed one kick after another to the crown of Reude’s head until his opponent had no right to be standing. Except Reude did remain upright, and even when he did fall he refused to stay down. Instead he insisted on getting back up and throwing more heavy punches of his own.
The match featured numerous stoppages for errant blows below the belt and a series of playful exchanges between fighters and the crowd, and ultimately O’Neal emerged victorious with straight 30-29 scorecards from the judges.
In the middle bouts Ryan Hart bested Robert Chun 3-1 in a single round of grappling, and then Kiani Amina defeated J’aime Pacheco by unanimous decision in a slogfest of a 170-pound kickboxing contest.
In the strangest bout of the night Matt Russo put a quick end to his 170-pound kickboxing contest with David Rangel of the Fight School Academy. A swift kick to the head followed by an immediate cross punch to the face sent Rangel free falling into the chainlink. As he bounced off the cage he was standing knocked out and had to be caught by the referee.
In a hurry to celebrate his knockout Russo clamored atop the cage, saluted the crowd, and quickly bounded out of the cage as the referee tried to explain to a bewildered Rangel that he had briefly lost consciousness and the fight was already over. However, according to the judges a fighter must remain in the ring until officially recognized by the referee as the winner, otherwise he is disqualified. As a result of Russo’s hurried exit from the ring Rangel wound up with a victory that he will only remember for all the wrong reasons.
Perhaps the best fight of the night was Quenton Hansen of Northwest Combat in Kelso versus Julio Garcia in a title tilt for the 135-pound kickboxing bantamweight belt. The fight went all five rounds with the quick hands of Hansen catching the strong body of Garcia repeatedly. Garcia refused to flinch though and landed several power kicks and strong flurries of punches to the svelte frame of Hansen in order to keep things close.
Garcia repeatedly seemed one big punch away from ending the fight. However, a knockdown with less than ten seconds remaining in the third frame gave Hansen an edge heading into the back end of the fight and he was able to emerge with a points decision after a harried finish to the fight that brought the crowd to its feet.
After his win Hansen said he is a big fan of the county fair fighting atmosphere.
“It’s fun. I love it!” he said.
Hansen noted that his opponent was undefeated coming into to night.
“I just wanted to let him gas himself and then check his counters,” said Hansen, who noted he had special inspiration on the night. He explained that it was the birth day of his best friend, Josh Tunis, who passed away four years ago.
“I knew I was going to win because he was here guiding me tonight,” said Hansen.
In the final fight of the evening hometown favorite Cody “Iron Fist’ Snider lost by decision in main event for heavyweight kickboxing title. The 260 pound Snider, formerly of Chehalis, fell to the 265-pound Weslie Coats of Northwest Combat.
According to Fight School Fitness owner Kory Cox the event went well for the first time out of the gate. He estimated that there were around 200 people in attendance on Friday, but noted that closer to 500 people attend the regular fights at his Fight School dojo. Still, he believes that the overall quality of the bouts and the unique outside fighting atmosphere will help draw a bigger crowd next year.
“It got wound up toward the end,” said Cox. “That’s usually how it goes. The first few guys are green as can be and nobody knows who they are.”
Cox noted that his favorite fight of the night was the heavyweight match between Snider and Coats.
“Those big guys were trying to knock my cage down!” Cox said.
Cox added the plan is to bring cage fights back to the Southwest Washington Fair next year, perhaps even with a batch of pro fighters in the mix.
The next Xumout cage fights will be held at Fight School Fitness in Chehalis on October 20.