James “Crunch Time” Wilkins moves in to punch Quantae Mitchell of Columbus

Boxers rumble at the L.T. Ellis Center

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Tyson didn’t make it to Laurel, but Tyner did. And Ali made an appearance in the ring, too.

Dr. Rashad Ali is the president of BareKnuckle Promotions, which brought a card of eight boxing matches to the L.T. Ellis Center in Laurel on Saturday night.

“I’m pleased with the turnout,” the Laurel physician said. “This is a good thing for young people to be involved in. It’s a lot better than being on the streets … and solving problems with a gun or a knife.”

Roy Jones Jr. talks to Shady Gamhour after his win.

The biggest boxing name in the building was Roy Jones Jr., but these days, he’s getting wins from the corner instead of in the ring. Both boxers he brought to The City Beautiful won their bouts in decisive fashion at the Independence Weekend Brawl. He has a stable of eight boxers he’s training in Pensacola, Fla.

“I’m enjoying myself,” said Jones, who has been dubbed as the “pound-for-pound greatest boxer” to ever lace up the gloves after winning six world championships in four weight divisions, from middleweight to heavyweight. He was selected as the Boxer of the Decade for the 1990s.

He posed for photos with many of the attendees, and even with the boxers his trainees beat asked to get pictures with him.

“It was very good,” he said of the venue in Laurel. “The people support it and it was done very professional. If a place is too big, people miss out on a lot. This was just right.”

Jones’ middleweight fighter Shady Gamhour, a Sweden native who now lives in Pensacola, took out Daniel Danner of Columbus with a knockout in the first minute of the the first round of the co-main event to improve to 9-0 in his professional career.

His lightweight James “Crunch Time” Wilkins, a former Golden Gloves champ from Staten Island, N.Y., posed and preened his way to a third-round TKO, then broke into a celebratory dance as he improved to 5-0. Quantae Mitchell of Columbus was on the losing end, taking his first loss after starting his pro career at 2-0. 

In a super heavyweight bout, Jeremiah “The Beast” Williams of Cincinnati, who weighed in at 224 pounds, outlasted 380-pound Dustin Cochran of Columbus, who stopped after three rounds of the scheduled six-round bout.

In the main event, WBC U.S. Junior Middleweight champion Lanardo “The Pain Server” Tyner of Detroit beat Gundrick King of Tuscaloosa by TKO in the fifth round. After both boxers were warned for low blows, King left the ring shouting at Tyner, telling him to stop gloating because the referee stopped the fight, not him. Tyner stood alone with the referee, who held up his arm in victory and his opponent was not there for the customary well wishes. Tyner improved to 36-12 and King dropped to 33-13.

The night wasn’t as good for another boxing blue blood. Cedric Paul of Detroit — the nephew of former IBF world lightweight champ Jimmy Paul and four weight division champ Thomas “Hitman” Hearns — lost his pro debut to upstart newcomer Louis Hernandez of Forest, who improved to 2-0 as a pro. Hernandez won in a close decision by the three judges, who scored the four-round middleweight bout 39-38, 39-37 and 39-37.

Locals got in some licks in amateur bouts to start the night. Ethan Jackson and Jordan Thrash went three rounds in a developmental match in which no score was kept.

Amir Smith of Laurel won his bout over Devarious McClendon by decision in three rounds, but his older brother Javion Smith didn’t get to fight because his opponent pulled out at the last minute. Nathan Lackey of Purvis beat Austin Cochran after Cochran’s coach threw in the towel in the second round.

Terrance Thigpen and Chris Daniels were recognized for their part as promoters of the fights, along with Ali. It was the second round of professional and amateur boxing at the L.T. Ellis Center after its successful debut in February. Earlier last month, Thigpen said it was possible that former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson would make an appearance for these fights, but he didn’t make it.

Ali, who is a physician at Family Health Center in Laurel, has said his goal is to bring back more pro-am fights and help discover a championship boxer. His company promotes boxing in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Jones said Ali does everything “first class,” working to help amateurs and pros.

“He tries to help both sides,” Jones said. “He’s not a person that’s trying to take from these guys, he’s trying to give back to them … You couldn’t ask for a better person.”