Mercer leaves boxing for bout vs. street fighter
By DAVID WEINBERG Staff Writer, (609) 272-7186
(Published: March 22, 2007)
Former heavyweight boxing champion Ray Mercer was sitting ringside at the Tropicana Casino and Resort two months ago, watching with boxer Arturo Gatti, adult film star Jenna Jameson and 2,000 screaming fans as two guys wrestled, kicked and punched each other inside a steel cage.
"I used to watch MMA (mixed martial arts) with my kids on TV and I never thought I'd ever be doing it," Mercer said Wednesday from his home in Fayetteville, N.C. "But then I saw it in person and I was sitting there thinking, 'Man, if I was in there right now, I would have already knocked that guy out.' "
He is about to get his chance.
Vineland's Felix Martinez, co-founder of Cage Fury Fighting Championships, announced Wednesday that Mercer has signed to face underground street fighter and Internet legend Kimbo Slice at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall on June 16 as part of Cage Fury Fighting Championship 5.
As soon as it was announced, one Internet site that specialized in MMA events reportedly received 30,000 hits in an hour.
"It's gonna be huge," said Mercer's advisor, Matt Howard. "They are going to configure Boardwalk Hall for 12,000 and I'm telling you it will be a sellout."
The bout will feature three five-minute rounds and will follow the universally accepted MMA regulations established by the sanctioning New Jersey Athletic Control Board. Ticket prices have yet to be announced.
Martinez is also negotiating to secure a casino sponsorship and to have the fight broadcast on pay per view.
Martinez confirmed that both fighters will earn $50,000. The winner will get an additional $25,000 and Martinez will also pay $10,000 for a knockout.
"Ray approached me during our last event (on Jan. 19 at the Tropicana) and said he'd be interested in doing something with Cage Fury," Martinez said. "I spoke with our matchmaker, Gary Marino, and he immediately suggested a fight with Kimbo Slice.
"It should be a real interesting fight. Slice is an Internet legend and claims he's the underground world champion. But it's different when you have to follow the MMA rules."
According to mixed martial arts Web sites, Slice is a 31-year-old from Miami who was released from prison almost a year ago after serving 10 years for an unspecified crime. Since getting out, the 6-foot-2, 260-pounder has made a living by charging opponents $5,000-$10,000 to face him in bare-knuckle street fights at various locales.
A series of videos online show Slice arriving in a backyard clad in nothing but a pair of sweatpants and battering foes with names like Adryan, Afro Puff and Big Mac with dozens of punches until they finally submit.
He is unofficially 9-1 with his only loss to Boston's Sean Gannon, though Slice later claimed that Gannon used mace during the fight and also relied on MMA tactics such as elbow strikes that were supposedly against street-fighting rules.
Mercer, who won the gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, watched Slice's videos and was not impressed.
"I know he's supposed to be some sort of great street fighter," Mercer said. "Well, we've all had street fights. I had enough of them in my life that I know what to do in there.
"I can see that he's strong and all that, but I don't think he's ever fought a boxer, let alone a former Olympic and world champion. One punch with four-ounce gloves is all I'll need to take him out."
Slice has reportedly been training in Miami. Mercer is due to arrive in Atlantic City over the weekend and will work out at the Pleasantville Rec Center with boxing trainer Mike Hall and Howard. He also will do some MMA training at the Atlantic City Mixed Martial Arts Academy at Oceanside Gym with Joe Diamond and Dave Sirota.
This will mark Mercer's third go-round with a non-boxing event. He twice ventured over to Japan to compete in K-1 events and "got the (stuffing) kicked out" of him by martial arts experts.
He decided to try MMA after a series of boxing events fell through, including a scheduled bout against former champion Hasim Rahman.
"I want to be on TV and I want the excitement of fighting and I wasn't getting there with boxing," said Mercer, who has not fought since losing to Shannon Briggs on Aug. 26, 2005. "I'm a competitor and this gives me a chance to compete again."