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By A.J. JANKOWSKI
Daily News Sports Editor
In the blue corner stood a man with just a handful of Ketchikan Fight Club bouts under his belt. In the red, a man promoter Jack Duckworth admitted to the crowd he’d "never even seen before."
But if the fight club has its way, we’ll be seeing these two boxers for a long time.
The fight of the night did not come with any of the anticipation of the main events, but it left an impression on the hundreds at the Ted Ferry Civic Center like a right hook flush against a jawbone.
Rudy Brooks and Julio Chavez stepped into the ring, and owned it. For six minutes, the beer lines dissipated. The same goes for the restrooms, as patrons felt it wiser to wait, and not miss a moment of the action.
Standing 6’1" and weighing 182 pounds, Brooks bounced on his feet in the blue corner, waiting for his opponent to emerge. Brooks, no stranger to Ketchikan’s Fight Night, used to fight in Las Vegas, and looked the part — short blond hair, built, and piercing eyes ready to discover a weakness.
At 5’8", 175, Chavez was smaller in stature, but not in musculature. He had spent the past three years fighting up and down the Northeast, and had the disposition to prove it. It was clear he had not come over from Metlakatla only to be offered up as bait. He came to win.
Both fighters were shirtless, but hardly uncovered, each showcasing tattoos on his arms, back and chest.
From the opening bell, their experience showed. There were none of the extraneous movements or failed flailing that tend to accompany some of the lesser-known fights in this ring.
The pair danced early, sizing one another up with head fakes and jabs to the midsection. But nobody paid to see body shots, and when Chavez connected the first right to Brooks’ cheekbone, the fight was on.
Chavez announced his arrival on the scene, using his speed and combinations to win round one.
As the two retreated to their respective corners, the Brooks supporters came out in full force. The chatter during rounds was minimal, as all were fixated on the match.
However, between periods was when the encouragement came, yelling to remind Brooks that he’s "still got this," many from the crowd using language that left us with a taste of soap bars as kids.
In round two, Brooks obliged his supporters, backing the newcomer into the ropes, and letting his power neutralize his opponent’s quickness. One left jab in particular to Chavez’s chest let loose an audible smack that brought the crowd to its feet. Brooks landed the majority of the blows in round two, but Chavez stayed on his feet and kept fighting.
Like any great fight, it would come down to the final round.
Brooks came out as the aggressor, continuing to back Chavez down. Midway through the period, the man from Met made his stand, and the two unleashed half a dozen haymakers in the center of the ring. Both connected on at least two, and the scuffle ended with Chavez hitting Brooks square on the temple with a thunderous right.
If the match ended there, surely it would have gone to Chavez. Sensing that trend, Brooks backed Chavez against the ropes and attacked without mercy. One shot to the gut left the head down, and that’s all Brooks needed to capitalize. A pair of right uppercuts from Brooks’ right arm collided with Chavez’ forehead, and he was down to one knee.
Chavez staggered, but regained his footing when the referee’s count reached eight. He lunged at Brooks one last time, but the final bell tolled.
And then, the crowd — the same crowd that watched Stephanie Booth win a boxing belt over Amy Omark; the same crowd that stuck around until well past midnight to watch Rafael Ramirez-Ruiz outlast his brother, Caesar, in a five-round mixed martial arts title fight — rose to its feet and offered its loudest ovation of the night.
When the scores were tallied, a weary Chavez and a gassed Brooks sauntered back into the center of the ring, hugged, and listened.
"Your winner, from the blue corner, Rudy Brooks," Duckworth said.
Barely audible from Duckworth’s microphone, you could hear a smiling Chavez yell:
"I want a rematch!"