With a full moon shining down on the Trail Memorial Centre, redemption did not come easy for some, but for others, avenging previous losses was worth howling about.
Over 1,000 fans attended AM Ford’s Fight Night Saturday and didn’t leave disappointed as the annual tilt provided its usual barrage of knockdowns and grinding bouts as Trail’s Pride Gym took eight of the 13 cards.
After the Brad Causey-J.J. Mixes main event was cancelled due to injury, Pride Gym’s Del Melnyk from Nelson and Stefan Fricta of Chilliwack were thrust into the spotlight. At last year’s battle, the two combatants slugged it out for five, five-minute rounds in an epic battle that ended in a well-deserved draw. But this year, Fricta exploited an opening in Melnyk’s defense and quickly finished him off with a guillotine chokehold with eight seconds left in the first round.
“We’re both tough, scrappy guys and we both go in there and give it all we have so I was expecting a five round war,” said Fricta after the fight.
Melnyk came out cautious as Fricta attacked with quick jabs and kicks to the thigh. As the round came to a close, he knocked Melnyk off balance and executed the submission hold.
“Melnyk knew it was a five rounder, so he had to set his pace,” said Pride Gym owner and organizer Glen Kalesniko. “It happens, the best guys get beat like that all the time.”
While the main event may have been brief, the lead up fight between Trail’s Wesley Neil and Mark Aparica of Lethbridge was like watching two men pass through a meat grinder. They pounded and grappled their way through three exhausting rounds of torture but in the end the Pride Gym fighter lost a close decision to Aparica.
Meanwhile in another redemption match Trail’s Jordan Knippelberg looked to avenge his loss to Cranbrook’s Curtis Blackmore in last year’s fight. Knippelberg came out the aggressor, avoiding the take down but punishing Blackmore in the first and third rounds to win a unanimous decision.
“I got my redemption,” said Knippelberg. “I wished I would have knocked him out but he’s tough – that’s the way it goes.”
Knippelberg got stronger as the fight progressed cutting Blackmore and bloodying his nose with vicious combinations.
“Everytime I go in there I always try to finish the fight, but I couldn’t seem to clip him, couldn’t get him on the chin. I got him in the temple, I got him on the nose, I just couldn’t get that clean shot on the chin to knock him out.”
The night began with one of two Muay Thai fights that saw Calgary’s Sukh Gill take a unanimous decision over a gutsy Curtis Ready of Castlegar. The taller Gill was technically superior, hurting Ready early with a barrage of knee kicks but Ready gave a gritty performance, pounding Gill in the third with brutal body blows.
In the next fight, Chris Luening came off the mat from a knock down to win by a TKO over Noah Ali of Calgary. Ali knocked Luening down with a right to the head in the first, cutting the Pride fighter but Leuning weathered the blow, finished strong in the first and owned the second round.
Ali spent most of the round on his back as Luening punished him with blows to the head until the referee called it with almost four minutes gone.
The next two fights were short and sweet as Pride Gym’s Billy Cameron outclassed Ian Ouland of Lethbridge, choking him out a minute into the first round.
Similarly, Sandy Bagg took care of business in his bout with Scott Hebert from Chilliwack with another submission hold, ending the match 58 seconds into the first.
In the other Muay Thai fight, Chelsea Bronaugh of Nelson won a unanimous decision over Allison Clarkson in a gutsy and furious performance. The diminutive Bronaugh stepped up a weight class to challenge the taller Lethbridge fighter and was relentless in her attack but also impressed with Clarkson’s resilience.
“It was crazy . . . I hit really hard, I broke my last opponent’s jaw,” said Brounaugh. “I was hitting that girl hard and she would take it, she’d look me dead in the eye and she’d throw punches back at me. . . what a warrior.”
In other battles Pride’s Nathan Jorhe after a lively exchange, quickly choked out Cranbrook’s Jeff Blackmore to finish the bout in just over a minute into the first round.
Sheldon Doll from Cranbrook crossed up Callum Ross of Calgary with an arm bar leading to a tap out a minute into the bout.
Ron Forry suffered a tough loss after an even and furious exchange with Lethbridge fighter Peter Neufeld. Neufeld took Forry to the ground and pounded away until the match was stopped just before the first round bell.
In another exciting matchup C.J. Bagg faced an older and stronger looking Steve Gilkes of Chilliwack and choked him out with his legs four minutes into the first round.
Kalesniko was particularly impressed saying, “The guy looked like he was going to control him (C.J.) but C.J. has such good ground, so flexible, and he just put the work on him, it was awesome.”
Trail’s River Jones made a statement against Cheryl Chan of Surrey, battling her for most of the first round before taking Chan to the ground and finishing her with a volley of blows to the head.
Kalesniko says he was satisfied with the turnout but that futures Fight Nights remain an uncertainty. And although Pride Gym lost the main event, the fights were entertaining and Kalesniko is happy with the heart and performance of his fighters.
“I thought our guys fought great, we owned a lot of the fights, there were a lot of fights that we were underdogs but we beat them with technique and heart.”