Boxing, MMA, Joe Downey ... and American Idol?

Boxing is not quite a dead sport, but it is giving ground rapidly to mixed martial arts, and the sport’s lead organization, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

At one time, you could view top-level boxing matchups on major networks. Those days are long gone. MMA, though, has brought its product to the masses, and good fights are regularly aired on the Spike and Versus networks (channels 52 and 49 respectively for Norwich Time-Warner subscribers).

The UFC regularly puts together solid MMA cards for television, has profiled up-and-coming fighters with its reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter,” and each fighter – almost to a fault – is a gracious and willing promoter of his sport. In the last two years, I have immersed myself in learning the sport and its combatants, researching fighters, and bringing myself up to date on the history. Late last year, New York native, Rashad Evans, won the light-heavyweight (205 pounds) title. Looking through his biography, I learned that Evans was a talented scholastic wrestler, and his biography stated that he placed in the New York State wrestling tournament while competing for Niagara Falls-Wheatfield in Section VI.

With the magic of the Internet, I looked up the old New York State tournament results. Evans is now 29, so I surmised he probably wrestled in 1997 or 1998. As it turns out, he placed fourth in the state tournament – when it was one division – both years. The first, as a junior, he competed in the 145-pound division. The next year, in 1998, he jumped to 171 pounds. It is there where I was able to make the direct link to one of the most distinguished wrestlers in Norwich High School history.

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