Big Freeze in Montana
By Richard E. Baker on March 3, 2021
Andrew Kanppela drove all the way from Wyoming to get beaten. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)
One is always too cold to know how cold it is in Montana. Once the temperature drops to the level of tree limbs cracking in half, what difference does the cold make? One does not freeze any faster at 32 degrees than at 32 below zero. Fortunately there was a place for a bit of warmth on Saturday, February 27, the Heritage Inn in Great Falls. Rob Wienholz did not hold back in this promotion in staging a very decent card during a very
tough time. Things are starting to open up in Montana. Venues can now host 75% of their usual capacity. Good thing. The show was a sell-out and if there was room they could have held 150% of capacity.
There were a few surprises as there always are in any boxing event. The much anticipated bout between Richard VanSiclen (8-0-0) and Charon Spain (2-14-2) fell through when Spain dropped out and was replaced with Cotton Turner making his pro debut. It took a whole lot of heart and guts for a newcomer to step into the ring with rising star VanSiclen. VanSiclen wanted a more evenly matched opponent to show off his skills but any fight is better than no fight.
The Northwest’s top managers and trainers were in attendance including Keith Weir, Richard Jackson, and Ray Frye. These men have kept the boxing banner flying alive. They are all near 60 years old and one often wonders who will replace them in the future. There appears to be few younger people willing to take on the challenge, effort, and enormous time to a sport with such small, if any, financial rewards. People “do” boxing out of love and she is often a fickle mistress.
The venue at the Heritage Inn Hotel is much like the Blue Horizon, small and intimate, with high overhangs for vaulted viewing—a genuine venue for intimate fights and a chance to witness young fighters on the rise. Nothing beats a good fight on a cold night in Montana.
William Hernandez (5-1-0) vs. Steve Hellman (0-3-0) started off the night’s action. The action was brief. Hellman went down as soon as he realized he was in a fight. A minute later he was out.
The best fight of the night came between Angel Mondragon (debut) vs. Gussari Brito (debut). These two young 18-year-olds were out to make a point. Neither wanted to be denied the win. Mondragon was 22-7-0 as an amateur; Brito had no amateur experience. Mondragon had placed 3rd in the PAL Championships; Brito had won no accolades. Mondragon’s walking around weight in 140; Brito’s is 122. The advantage appeared to go to Mondragon; however, Brito had only trained with professionals, is the sparring partner of former world champion Moises Flores, and had just finished sparring with world champion Chocolatito Gonzales.
From the opening bell Brito kept Mondragon on the ropes pummeling him with body shots. Mondragon fought back with many of his blows milling. Brito continued the same in round 2. He had clearly won the first rounds. Something happened in round 3 when Brito stop throwing punches. He almost looked tired, maybe punched out. Mondragon came on with several hard shots. The final round was close with both men exchanging blows. The round ended in a flurry of blood and punches as Mondragon’s face was painted red and spots of blood covered the ring. The judges declared the fight a draw.
Richard VanSiclen (8-0) vs. Cotton Turner (debut) was a tough decision for the commissioner when the original opponent dropped out. Finding a suitable last minute replacement is difficult and putting a man with no pro experience in the ring would cause some controversy. The commissioner knew that Turner had a decent amateur record and that he would not get injured. The fight was a difficult one for VanSiclen who wanted a decent opponent to help show off his increasing skills. The only skill Turner had was the guts to step into the ring before the fight was stopped in round 1. VanSiclen is still waiting for a defining fight, a fight that will get him recognized.
Will Chope (4-0-1) was also a last minute replacement as he faced Andrew Whitfield (3-2-0). Will Chope lives in Thailand, has three kids, and is a respectable Muay Thai fighter. As a boxer—not so much. He exposed the one trait of MMA fighters, guts. He refused to quit as the awkward and little skilled Whitfield batted him about the ring like a ping pong ball. Whitfield took the win. With better training and dropping a weight or two, Whitfield will continue to do well.
Russell Wienholz (2-0-0) and Andrew Kanppela (0-1-0) banged away their entire fight with Wienholz doing most of the banging. Wienholz is a young man with lots of energy who throws his punches way too wide. He was in good shape and did not tire in the bout. Kanppela, all heart and guts, drove all the way from Wyoming to get beaten.
Trinity Lopez (2-0) vs. Kevin Davila (5-8-2) was evenly matched and the bout swayed fairly evenly between the two with Lopez appearing to win the rounds by a slight margin. The fight was an interesting one as the action swayed back and forth. The fight ended in a majority draw with most of the crowd feeling that Lopez had won by a slight margin. Even Davila, taking to some fans after the fight, said he thought Lopez had taken the edge; a bold and honest admission from an honest and decent man.
The referees for the night were first class, completely professional all the way. The venue was great and the additional bout that took place between two heavyweights in the first row was an added bonus. They mostly rolled about on the floor like two great walruses, but what a show. This was, after all, Montana.