While most local fight fans paid big pay-per-view bucks to watch Manny Pacquiao pound Chris Algieri Saturday night, the burlesque that masquerades as live pro boxing nowadays slunk back into town at a South Side hotel ballroom.
In the very same week that the city’s daily newspaper ran an investigative series about the death of a young Milwaukee kickboxer under the screaming headline "Death in the Ring," 45-year-old heavyweight Lyle McDowell was allowed to box Enobong "The Nigerian Gentleman" Umohette, 35.
McDowell had been out of the ring for three years and hadn’t won a fight since 2002. But he beat Umohette Saturday night, apparently because the latter broke a hand during the bout.
The scheduled 10-round contest for a bunch of invented-for-the-occasion titles (including "The Universal Boxing Federation All-America Heavyweight Championship") was promoted by Umohette himself, who told a reporter that he "believes there is a market for pro boxing in Milwaukee, once known as a great fight town."
That was a long time ago, and the reason for it was that then Wisconsin had an authoritative, respected boxing commission that would never have permitted a McDowell-Umohette fight to be held.
To begin with, in the long ago heyday of pro boxing here no boxer would’ve been allowed to promote his own fights.
The State Athletic Commission was charged with protecting the public and boxers themselves from the mismatches and monkeyshines commonplace in today’s version of the sport, and did it so scrupulously that it was the model for commissions established in other states.
The Wisconsin commission was legislated out of business in 1980, and while boxing is still overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services, allowing events like the self-anointed McDowell-Umohette "Clash of the Titans" detracts more than it contributes to the heritage of a major part of state sports history sanctified by the blood and sweat of such homegrown idols as Bob Moha, Richie Mitchell, Joey Sangor, Doll Rafferty, Juste Fontaine, Jimmy Sherrer, Billy Braggs, and Karl Zurheide.
"I know everyone will be anxious to see the third part of this trilogy in a rematch," says Umohette (who knocked McDowell out three years ago) on Facebook.
I covered many of Lyle’s fights here in the ‘90s, and since then hoped that the boxing barber was ensconced in his own shop driving customers nuts recalling a career that, while far from stellar, took him to arenas in Chicago, Las Vegas, and once even to Madison Square Garden.
Now I just hope he’ll be able to remember his own name.