COTTONWOOD-Stampede Smackdown 2 was the best event Richard Williams and Golden Cobra Center of Fitness has put together. The fights Saturday night at Steve Coury treated fans with high-quality boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai.
Three hundred rented chairs filled up fast and many other spectators watched from standing room only.
The main event, a Muay Thai fight between Cecil Tudor and Frank Bamford for an IKF light heavyweight USA title*, lived up to the hype.
The men split their previous two matchups with Bamford winning the first.
Tudor prevailed in the second match about a year ago, and he won the rubber match Saturday night with consistency and stamina.
Bamford has amazing kicking ability, and one of Bamford's high, sweeping kicks found Tudor's head early in the match. A head kick can end a fight fast, but Tudor gained composure after dropping to the mat from the strike.
Tudor became more aggressive after sustaining the blow to the head. He couldn't sit back and wait, he had to push forward.
Tudor won the match because he landed more strikes and scored more points. Bamford impressed members of the crowd with his dazzling striking ability, but Tudor impressed the judges with his boxing ability and consistency.
Tudor's mental game was just as important as his physical game in the match; he still had enough energy to finish, and that skill in any kind of fighting comes with experience.
Golden Cobra debuted the brothers Rojas in front of a local crowd Saturday. With a flurry of punches in the first round of his boxing match, Shawn Rojas looked angry. The crowd was chanting his last name. He landed a lot of shots and combinations, but he also expended a lot of energy. It caught up to him in the second and third rounds. Shawn lost in a decision.
Shawn has the athleticism and mentality to become a great boxer, but mastering the sweet science doesn't happen in a first fight. The lesson Saturday: even when the crowd is chanting your name, and you feel like you can conquer the world, don't believe it. Adrenaline can only take you so far.
Still, the fight entertained the crowd, and Shawn Rojas left everything in the ring. He's a very exciting prospect for Golden Cobra.
Anthony Rojas won a decision for his kickboxing match by picking his spots and utilizing many different strikes. The determination on his face resembled his brother's. A cut appeared on his knee during the fight, but it didn't faze him and it made him look even tougher than all his tattoos.
Before the Rojas brothers fought, the Verde Valley fight fans got their first look at Saxon Vaughan in a boxing match. He's one of the white kids with dreadlocks hanging around Golden Cobra lately. His twin brother Talon couldn't find a fight this time around.
Saxon gets to train against his brother all the time and their father is very involved in their development, so they're both very advanced for their age. They certainly don't show any signs of slowing down.
They come to Golden Cobra for Muay Thai training because they cant find it on the other side of the mountain. The twins plan to fight this week at Copper Gloves, a USA boxing event at the state fair.
Joe Gomez fought Muay Thai and lost in a decision. He put together a solid fight, but his opponent kept kicking his left thigh, right above his knee. It got bruised up and purple during the match. You can imagine what it looked like the day after. Gomez went the distance, but his opponent found a spot he liked to kick and cut into it.
The most exciting thing about Muay Thai is the variety of strikes fighters are allowed to throw.
Most Americans interested in fighting watch the UFC, and it looks like it's here to stay, but other forms of fighting could make resurgence because of what the UFC is turning into; kicks aren't as important as they used to be in the octagon.
Muay Thai has roots in ancient Thailand, but what's refreshing about it today is the integration and fluidity of strikes employed by experienced practitioners. The level of competition in the title fight Saturday made spectators hungry for more, and Richard Williams intends to give it to them.
Golden Cobra has grown immensely over the past year, and Stampede Smackdown 2 typified progress.
Here are some observations from the event.
1. The family that fights together stays together.
We've seen brothers fighting for Golden Cobra before, but the addition of the Rojas and Vaughan brothers further proves the point. Robert Gonzales has trained his son Jesse Duran for years, and now he's training his nephews. A family-type atmosphere at Golden Cobra adds to the gym's appeal.
2. Steve Coury is a great place to host a boxing event.
The lights, the open-air setup, and the side lot for food vendors-it all came together. It's like Steve Coury built the building specifically for hosting fights.
3. Kicks to the head hurt, but don't always end a fight.
Cecil Tudor won the title after sustaining a pretty big kick to the head. Tudor is a good fighter because of his skills in the ring and his stamina, but picking himself up and winning the fight showed unrelenting determination.
Check the Verde Independent and Camp Verde Bugle for when the next local-fight night takes place.
*Cecil Tudor now holds the International Kickboxing Federation modified rules light heavyweight title. The modified rules in this case means the fighters are not allowed to throw elbows. Since Tudor is champion, now he has to fight any challenger in the top 10.