By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Tyrel Brown of Fort Gibson has lived the dream — or better still, juggled his dreams. Some have concerned boxing, others MMA, including his first home bout as a pro tonight.
He could be a worthy ambassador of either sport, one perhaps needing his help a little more than the other.
Boxing’s grip on the fisticuffs spotlight has slipped, as if it were being held onto by someone wearing the sport’s bulky gloves. Mixed martial arts is used in the widely popular Ultimate Fighting Championships. Fought in a cage, UFC, a sport Sen. John McCain once branded as “human cockfighting,” has changed from its vale tudo style roots to become safer and more mainstream — and with that, the career goal of many fighters, including some of those who are part of the “Fists of Fury 1” card set for 7:30 tonight at Muskogee Civic Center.
Brown has experienced success in both. In the boxing ring, he won consecutive Toughman titles at the Civic Center in 2004 and 2005. That led to him turning pro where he’s built a 9-3 record, all victories by knockouts, and one championship fight under the World Boxing Council label. That chance came in September, an eight-round WBC Fecarbox Middleweight title bout against Tony Jeter, who stopped Brown in the fifth round.
His cage career started in 2006 and he’s 10-3, including a marquee loss to Tim Means in the King of the Cage junior welterweight and lightweight belt skirmishes at Winstar World Casino in Thackerville back in January 2012. That win lifted Means into the first of three fights he’s had on the UFC circuit.
Brown says MMA’s conquered territory is no accident. It’s achieved it on its own.
“It’s grown faster than any sport in a long time, like wildfire,” he said. “It’s still new to a lot of people and there’s plenty of room to grow.”
On the other side of the fence, boxing promoter Bob Arum has gone on record multiple times as saying the success of UFC cuts along a racial demographic audience. There may be a small point there but when boxing’s audience heyday at the gate and on pay-per-view included the likes of Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and the early years of Mike Tyson in the ring, that doesn’t seem to hit the nail on the head.
Boxing, Brown says, has done enough damage on its own.
“Too many organizations are controlling the toughest guys and with so many different champions in these organizations, everyone is protecting their turf and as a result, you don’t get the fights people want to see,” he said.
There’s WBA, WBO, IBF, WBC and within the latter, as an example, is Fecarbox, a Central American sanctioning body.
“When Dana White took hold of UFC (as president), you didn’t get that. If you beat this guy, you get shot at the No. 1 guy,” Brown said. “And there’s additional money paid for winning a fight, money to show up and money to win. There’s just a whole lot of motivation for the fighters in MMA.”
But of late, Brown says he’s seen signs that boxing is recognizing the need to reinvent itself, starting at the grassroots level.
“You’re starting to see more local shows and the fights I’ve seen the last six months, they’re stepping it up,” he said. “Some people are starting to realize that boxing isn’t going to be around much longer if we don’t get it in gear. But it’s always a good thing to have competition between both (MMA and boxing).”
At 36, Brown’s fighting career is approaching the twilight side, which is why he’s also devoting time to training others at his Hooligan’s Fight Club here. Four of them will join him on tonight’s card — Billy Stimmel, a former wrestler at Muskogee High, takes on Alex Arnall of Springfield, Mo. in another of the three pro fights. Other Hooligan fighters scheduled include ex-Rougher footballer Dale Ford and Hilldale grads Sam Mullens and Artie Paden.
None will feel the significance any more than Brown, who will fight as a pro for the first time in front of a home crowd against David Lindsey, a Jacksonville, Ark., native with a 4-1 record. Brown is also trying to get a WBC rematch with Jeter, an opportunity to atone for a cut that to him, made all the difference in the first bout.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “It’s also going to be good for our other guys to get the home exposure.”
What: Fists of Fury I
Muskogee Civic Center
Tickets: $25 for general admission and $40 for ringside and can be purchased at the Civic Center,