Anchorage fighter Cody Williams pounded on the mat and yelled prior to his fight at Saturday’s AK Beatdown event, the St. Paddy’s Day Brawl.
Across the ring, Juneau fighter Kyle De La Rosa was much calmer, slowly swaying from side to side as he sized Williams up.
Two minutes into the fight, which was the headliner, Williams was hitting the mat again. This time, De La Rosa was on top of him, pounding him with his fists. Two minutes and 37 seconds into the fight, the bell rang and De La Rosa was declared the winner by knockout.
De La Rosa, just 18 years old, said that low-key demeanor prior to the fight summed up his approach to the bout.
“The strategy tonight was stay tight, stay calm,” De La Rosa said afterward. “I feel like now that I’m older, I’ve got to start maturing. I can’t be in there screaming all the time, swinging and hoping for the best.”
De La Rosa’s defeat of Williams was the ninth fight of the event, which took place at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall at the Andrew Hope Building in Juneau. The room filled up as the night went along, with a few people dressed up in St. Patrick’s Day garb.
The crowd was engaged in the main event, cheering loudly for De La Rosa (also known as the “Filipino Flower”). Uniting the crowd behind a Juneau fighter was another goal of De La Rosa’s, he said.
De La Rosa, a Thunder Mountain High School graduate, said he trains at all three of the main training programs in town — Capital City, Complete Warrior and Counter Strike — instead of choosing one team. By working with multiple gyms, he hopes to eliminate the rivalries that exist between them, he said.
In his post-fight interview in the ring, De La Rosa said he fights for “Team Juneau,” which earned a large ovation from the crowd.
“We can’t just keep fighting each other,” De La Rosa said afterward. “This is a small town.”
The other eight fights of the night included five MMA and three boxing bouts. The first fight of the night, between Juneau residents Cliff White and Andrew Fairchild, ended in a draw. After that, there were three knockouts, three winners by unanimous decision and one disqualification.
In an MMA fight, Juneau’s Steven Lundy defeated Honolulu’s Daniel Shimabukuro after Simabukuro bowed out in the second round. In the first boxing match of the night, 58-year-old Al “Mean Machine” Valentine defeated Klawock’s James “The Beast” Roberts by unanimous decision.
Sheldon Jones defeated Richard Jim by knockout in an MMA bout. Brian Lauth defeated Charlie Gallant by unanimous decision in an MMA bout.
Marco Reina defeated Tim Storbeck in a heated boxing match where Reina knocked Storbeck down time after time. Storbeck kept getting up until he finally stayed down a little over a minute into the third round.
In an MMA bout, Alexander Brown had to bow out due to injury after the first round, giving Austin Quintero the victory. In the final fight before the main event, Ketchikan boxer Gabe Duckworth defeated Juneau’s Moa Maka by unanimous decision.
Family in his corner
At 58 years old, Valentine can’t train like he used to. Instead of sparring to prepare for a fight, Valentine runs, eats healthy and shadowboxes these days.
Still, Valentine doesn’t hold back in the ring. During his fight against James “The Beast” Roberts on Saturday, Valentine went for the knockout early. He came out swinging, slamming his fists into the body and head of Roberts.
Quickly, it became clear that Roberts wasn’t going to go down easy.
“Pace yourself!” Valentine’s brother John yelled from his corner after Valentine’s first barrage of punches.
Between engagements with Roberts, Valentine would back off and let his arms hang at his sides as he took deep breaths. Both boxers are imposing figures, as Valentine stands 271 pounds and Roberts is even bigger. With so much weight behind their punches, the sounds of their blows garnering exclamations from spectators.
Valentine said he was putting everything he had behind his punches, but Roberts never went down.
“There’s nothing more discouraging than when you give someone your best and they keep coming,” Valentine said.
After three rounds of combat between the two mountainous men, judges ruled unanimously in Valentine’s favor.
Valentine embraced his brother, who said he’s been in his corner since Valentine started fighting in the 1970s. For Saturday’s fight, Valentine had a new addition to his corner — his daughter Eliza.
Eliza, 18, has seen her father fight numerous times, but this was her first time being involved in one of them.
“It was a very eye-opening experience,” Eliza said, “because you’re in there and you can see everything up close, like seeing the blood on his head, even though it wasn’t his. Being right there, it just makes you realize what this is really all about. It’s a serious sport.”
Valentine and Eliza were all smiles before and after the fight, pleased to get the victory after Valentine suffered a defeat four months ago. He had much more time to prepare for this one, he said, and is still looking to keep fighting.
He hopes to fight for a championship soon, and said if he doesn’t get a spot in a championship fight soon he might retire. That pursuit is keeping him motivated, but so is his family, he said.
“I just told him, ‘You notice that I have the best fights when you’re in my corner,’” Valentine said, gesturing to his brother. “I’ve fought harder when he’s there, plus I have my daughter there. She’s my No. 1 influence.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.