Saturday, June 24, 2017 This Week's Paper


// Battle at the Boat reaches milestone

In a little over three years of covering boxing and mixed martial arts, we have seen some pretty impressive crowds fill the showroom at the Emerald Queen Casino. They all would pale in comparison to the throng of fight fans and well-wishers in attendance for the special 20th anniversary edition of the Battle at the Boat boxing series. It was standing room only at the EQC and while the night of fights was a bit of a mixed bag, it was clear that the fight fans around the Tacoma area know and love them some good fights.

It was the 111th edition of Battle at the Boat, and when one really looks closely at that number, it means the total number of boxers that have entered the ring under a Brian Halquist promotion, is probably somewhere in the ball park of 1,500 fighters. That’s just an awesome number.

The night would usher into the ring some of the area’s most favored boxers, as well as a bevy of former pugilists who have graced the ring at a Battle at the Boat in the past. It was a festive night, filled with congratulations from the ring by boxing luminaries, as well as video tributes from quite a few celebrities.

While all of the smiling, back-slapping and hugging added some warmth to the night, it was the battles within the ring that drew the crowd out following a gorgeous Puget Sound day outside.

Opening the night would be a bout between relative newcomers. Jacob Ikaika Martin would be making his boxing debut against Eric “Kid Rush” Cronkhite, who entered the bout with an 0-1 record. Both fighters have previously put in work inside the cage as mixed martial artists, but luckily their boxing training has taken over and no kicks or knees accidentally slipped into the action.

Martin looks like he may have a bit of a future inside the ring. He delivered some heavy blows to a slippery Cronkhite, but was unable to put them together in bunches. It was clear though, that he stung his opponent several times in their four-round affair, and when the final bell rang, the crowd appreciated the work put in by the two fighters. Martin would win via unanimous decision.

From this writer’s standpoint, the second fight of the evening should have been stamped with an “incomplete” following some action that seemed to end in just a matter of moments. Jesse Barich (0-1) was facing Kevin Torres (1-0-1) in a 154-pound affair. Torres immediately looked sharp and ready to go, while Barich appeared a bit stiff. There would be no room to work through things though, as Barich was on the wrong end of a couple of low blows that landed on the opposite side of the referee. Folks in the crowd were calling foul on the business, and before anyone knew it, Torres landed a third shot, just a bit higher, and Barich went down in pain. After a short chat with the referee, the fight was stopped and Torres was named the winner. While the final blow was high enough to be legal, it was difficult seeing a fighter eat a couple of shots in such a short amount of time, that were sure to sap the strength and energy from his body.

The third bout would pit newcomer Shae Green and Niko McFarland (0-3) in a 140-pound bout. Both fighters were lightning fast, offensively and defensively. The result was a lot of punches thrown, but not a whole lot of damage done by either fighter. In the end, Green would earn the unanimous decision, although McFarland represented himself quite well against what looks to be one of the up and coming fighters in the area.

Up next would be a 177-pound bout between undefeated Richard Vansiclen (3-0) against Justin Milani (1-4). The bout had a slow start to it, as both fighters felt each other out for a bit. However, before the first round was over, Vansiclen had stunned Milani with a big shot and had was beginning to land some good blows. The second round saw Vansiclen come out ready to end the fight. Milani was game enough to keep on swinging, but he began to whither under a barrage of blows from Vansiclen. A clean left hook sent Milani to the deck and the referee mercifully stopped the bout. Vansiclen looks like he has enough tools to start making some serious noise in the Pacific Northwest.

The semi main event would pit Andres Reyes (6-2-1) against Will Hughes (5-5) in a 147-pound affair. While Reyes still looks like he could be around 16 years old, he’s shown himself to be quite the veteran around the Battle at the Boats. Hughes has also put in some serious work at the EQC, so it looked as though this could be a fun fight.

What turned out, was a first round knockout that was almost comical in appearance. After some great early action in the first, Reyes caught Hughes with a left hook high upon his head. It reminded this writer of when the doctor taps your knee with his little hammer. The knee pops up, without you having done a thing. Reyes nailed Hughes, his arms went out in a herky-jerky manner, and one of his legs suddenly launched backward, like a donkey kick. Meanwhile, Reyes saw the opening and needed just one punch to send his opponent to the mat. If there was a “lights out” button on Hughes, it appeared that Reyes had found it.

The main event would pit Hilltop’s own Mike Gavronski (22-2-1) against Quinton Rankin (12-3-2) in a light heavyweight affair. I wish I could polish this fight a little bit, but in truth, it was a difficult 10-rounder to watch. Rankin, a southpaw, was hell-bent on keeping Gavronski away from him, and was in reverse gear much of the night. When Rankin did land some shots, it was in ones and no more than twos. There were little combinations landed by either fighter and it looked as though the style of each man was like oil to their water. In the end, it would be Gavronski taking the unanimous decision, to the delight of the Tacoma faithful in the crowd.