Lange v. Wilt
As previously mentioned, I went to Wednesday's Jimmy Lange vs. Tommy Wilt press conference. It was my first boxing press conference. I hoped for mayhem, cursing and possibly a few folding chairs or haymakers being tossed around indiscriminately. Like this.
There was none of that. (The event, btw, was held at Champps in Fair Oaks Mall. Yes, Champps. When I asked why the extra P, they told me it was in honor of Onterrio Smith. Ok, they didn't really, but they should have.)
It was, though, a worthwhile experience, for many reasons:
1) One of the boxers was named Horace "The Reason" Grant, although he's also been known as Ray Grant. In fact, when he was asked if he goes by Ray or Horace, he said "both." My opinion: If you're a local boxer named Horace Grant, you roll with that.
2) One of the promoters said "it's fair to say that Northern Virginia rightfully deserves to be called a hotbed for pro boxing."
3) The Manassas Mauler, Scott Farmer, was there. His son Andrew is on the card, fighting TBA. TBA wasn't there. Or at least didn't speak.
4) I spent some time with quote machine and George Mason alum "Money" Mike Sawyer. The quotes will be posted in a few hours.
5) The main event guys, Jimmy Lange and Tommy Wilt, have slightly different personalities. Lange is most famous for appearing on what was then NBC's "The Contender." He's since become good friends with Contender star Jackie Kallen, who said on Wednesday that Jimmy was her favorite contestant from season one that he will eventually be a world champion. Lange wore dress pants, dress shoes and a white wife beater with a gold medallion. Before the press conference, he posed for photos with his friend, Miss Virginia (2005) Kristi Glakas. Virtually everyone who took the microphone profusely thanked Jimmy for lending his star power to the event. Jimmy also has a wife and three children; twins Jack and Angelo (4) and daughter Talia (18 mos.). After boxing, he might pursue an acting career. Kallen explains:
Jimmy was the gentleman father, always looking like a model. I mean, look at his face. He was the suave one, the perfect family man. He looks like he could do a Hanes commercial for underwear, and then he could rip your head off if he had a chance. But he could be a male model.
Tommy is a welder from Altoona, Pa. He got into the sport when his teenaged buddy got into a spat with a boxer, and Tommy and the buddy decided to train at a local gym. That was almost 20 years ago. Now, Wilt is 37. He fought more than 200 times as an amateur; he's 20-5 as a pro, and he works 8-hour-days as a welder for the railroad. He also tried out for "The Contender," and knocked his opponent down three times in a three-minute audition, but he never heard back from the producers.
"I knew his personality would get him in the end," said Tommy's manager, Mike Boone. "Like Jimmy, with his muscle shirt and chains, sitting with Miss Virginia. Tom's the exact opposite. Boring. Just as boring as anybody you'd ever want to meet. All he does is work out, train and go to work."
Tommy doesn't have a computer. Doesn't know what a blog is. He said he doesn't really have any hobbies besides boxing. He borrowed a friend's dress shoes and suit jacket for the press conference, although he felt uncomfortable in the formal clothes; "that's not me," he said. He gets up before dawn for work, comes home, trains until 9 or 10 and goes to sleep. He'll likely make somewhere in the mid-five figures for this fight, by far the best payday of his career. He doesn't have any kids and he's not married, although his girlfriend came to Wednesday's event. She asked Jimmy Lange for his autograph.
"I have no bag of tricks, I have no specialty, I just get in the ring and do what I do," Tommy said. "It's got me this far in life, so why change? I'm just a plain old regular guy."
Jimmy Lange, incidentally, wasn't buying the contrast. He admitted that "The Contender" was a huge boon for his career, but said that he's not Hollywood, that he doesn't have a nickname or a flashy style, that he's "not Mr. Big Shot, glitz and glamour and all the other things." And he doesn't believe that Tommy Wilt is boring.
"He trains full-time while working as a welder--that's pretty damn interesting, that would interest me," Jimmy said. "How can you not like the guy? That's kind of BS. Anybody who walks in that ring, who has the [guts] to get in the ring is interesting."
Frankly, I'll admit to being interested.
September 14, 2006; 8:43 AM ET
Categories: Fighting Sports
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