Two Idiots Flailing Away At Each Other
That's how Cakes from the Junkies described his 45 seconds in the boxing ring with fellow Junky JP Flaim. That's about the extent of Cakes's boxing experience, if you don't count the times that he and JP would ball up their soccer shin guards in high school and punch each other while in one of their family rooms. JP has a bit more experience; he once fought Junkies intern Chad Dukes in a conference room, scoring a second-round knockout. Plus he used to fight his brother. For the remote control.
"I'm straight from the suburbs, I'm straight from Bowie," JP told me. "I'm not from the school of hard knocks. I don't know that I've ever been in a real fight."
Well, that'll change on Dec. 9, when JP climbs into the ring at the Patriot Center in a sanctioned four-round 158-pound fight against the legendary Jay Watts, he of the 1-8 career record.
"He was the worst guy I could find at that weight," explained the show's promoter, Joe Hensley of Major League Boxing.
"He has one knockout, which is one more knockout than I have," said JP, who'll be fighting as "The Latin Donkey." "But hey, as the guys on the show said, he'll have two knockouts after he fights me."
So anyhow, local boy and former "Contender" fighter Jimmy Lange has another fight scheduled at the Patriot Center, Dec. 9 against Fontaine Cabell for the WBC Continental Americas Junior Middleweight championship. Jimmy has pretty strong local drawing power, and his fights have been getting 4,000-6,000 fans. JP, though, will change that. JP and his fellow Junks drew 8,300 for a football game against the D.C. Divas. The talk at today's press conference was that the Dec. 9 fight will draw 8,000-9,000, and might sell out the Patriot Center.
(Speaking of today's press conference, I was lured out to Fair Oaks Mall by the promise that this card would include a local morning radio celebrity making his pro boxing debut. I booked my plans to come out here, secure in the knowledge that it would be great fun to see Steve Czaban in boxing shorts. Instead I got JP Flaim, which is fine, but the dude spent his entire radio show this morning talking about this fight. Kind of stole my thunder. This is why you should never talk to PR people. No offense.)
Anyhow, JP and Jimmy have known each other for years. JP has helped promote Jimmy's fights. Jimmy has helped judge a Daisy Dukes contest for the Junkies. After watching Jimmy fight, JP "kind of had a crazy lightbulb moment" that maybe he should climb into the ring himself. He started talking to Jimmy about training techniques. He ran the idea past his wife and some friends. After Jimmy's last fight this fall, JP decided to make it happen. He talked to Jimmy's dad, who in turn talked to Joe Hensley.
"I thought they were crazy," Hensley said. "I thought they were nuts. I'll tell you, I'm a boxing purist. But when I saw the potential bottom line, I was a sellout real quick."
From JP's standpoint, he said he didn't want his fight to be a carnival act. He didn't want it to be fake. He didn't want it to be a pure gimmick. He wanted to have a real fight on a real card. He wanted to feel the authentic energy that had captivated him at a previous Patriot Center fight. That's why he got in touch with the Lange camp.
"The gimmick is that it's real, that the guy I'm fighting will want to kill me," he said. "There's gonna be huge intrigue from our listeners. They want to see what's going to happen, if I'm going to get killed....They want to see me get decapitated, they want to see me in a wheelchair after the fight."
(That, incidentally, is the sort of relationship I'm hoping to build with my readers.)
(And he appears to be correct. Someone on the Junkies' extremely not-safe-for-work MySpace page wrote this:
"I respect JP for doin this, and I realize the dude is 1-8 but JP's gonna get beat down like an accordian player at a biker bar.")
So anyhow, after all these meetings, JP started training for real. He's 36 years old, a former high school baseball and soccer player at Eleanor Roosevelt. He hasn't been down below 160 pounds since 1988, but he's right around there right now. On his second day of training he got a bloody lip and a bloody nose and was repeatedly blasted in the stomach with a 15-pound medicine ball; "I was a human pinata," he said.
He's still scared every day he goes to the gym, although maybe a little less scared than he was the day before. He came to today's press conference with a bit of a shiner on his right eye. He gets up at 4:30 a.m. for his radio show, and he's been gone from 4:30 till 8 most nights for training. He now does things like go out running in the rain while carrying a 12-pound medicine ball; "that's not something I would normally do," he said. "I'd probably normally be home watching 'Lost.'"
And he went to watch some of his gym mates from the Arlington Boxing Club on a recent amateur card, but had to leave early to talk his 6-year-old daughter to Chuck E. Cheese's. (Which, he said, is a more harrowing experience than climbing into a boxing ring.) But the point is, it's a different world from where he came from.
"I'll be honest, I'm a white guy from the suburbs, and I'm going to the Arlington Boxing Club with Juan and Roberto," he said. "There's not many John Pauls, and there definitely aren't many 36-year-olds with gray hair."
I asked what his mom thought. "She is...........not happy," he said. "I told her to try to trust me, that I'm 36, reasonably intelligent, maybe exercising horrific judgment in this case, but I've surrounded myself with good people who are going to put me in the best possible scenario."
As for his chances, I can't say I know much about Jay Watts. Hensley said he previously matched Watts up against a 1-5 fighter, and the 1-5 fighter knocked Watts out in the first round, so that's probably a good sign. Jimmy Lange said JP should have a legit shot; "he's not gonna get up there and be Floyd Merriweather, but he's putting his time in and he's gonna be a professional fighter," Jimmy said. "I think there's a good chance he could win."
I asked Cakes the same question. He disagreed that fans would be rooting against JP; he thought they'd be on his side, but "there's just that car wreck curiosity factor a lot of people will have with this event." He said he would be rooting for JP, too, but that he wasn't optimistic.
But what about the knockout win over intern Chad Dukes, I asked. Wasn't that impressive?
"Not really," Cakes said. "Chad was kind of out of shape."
Cakes, in fact, installed JP as an early 10-1 underdog.
"That's no disrespect to him; I'd give myself zero percent," he said. "I give him all the credit in the world, but it's going to be tough to step in the ring with a real professional boxer when you've never boxed a day in your life."
November 16, 2006; 3:16 PM ET
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