Slice and Dice

Street Certified

By Josh Gross and Dave Mandel Feb 17, 2008
CORAL GABLES, Fla., Feb. 16 -- Having been repeatedly told he's the lead act in a circus that started in some Miami-area boatyard, Kevin Ferguson (Pictures), better known as Internet fighting sensation "Kimbo Slice," is tired of and offended by the term.

"No more of that," the 34-year-old heavyweight growled early Sunday morning.

Why should the world consider Slice a legitimate mixed martial artist, one who deserved to headline a card on Showtime that also promoted a former UFC heavyweight champion and other respected veterans of the sport?

It's rather simple, said his trainer Bas Rutten (Pictures).

"What he's got, he's got cajones," said Rutten, someone that would know. "He can take a hit and he really likes to fight. It's not an act with him. He really likes to hurt people."

Saturday on the campus of the University of Miami, Ferguson not only got to hurt someone -- David "Tank" Abbott, an older version of Slice from a bygone era in MMA -- but he showed why top billing in just his second professional fight was reasonable.

From the moment the intimidating fighter strode to the cage, 6,187 people inside the BankUnited Center stood. They wouldn't take a seat again until it was time to drive back to wherever it was they came from. Surely the conversation on the ride home centered on Slice's blistering right hand that ended Abbott's night just 43 seconds after the opening bell.

The fight itself wasn't noteworthy. Ferguson came out looking to strike. Abbott momentarily thought of a takedown. But as will happen with men like these, everything went out the window.

"I just said screw it and decided to fight him," said Abbott, who hasn't won a fight of consequence in years, and in fact owns just one victory in nine tries since 1998.

Yet for the same reason that it didn't matter that Slice had just one professional fight to his name, it didn't mean a thing that Abbott (9-14) had failed in MMA for almost a decade when he began winging right hands.

What men like Abbott had and Slice have is the uncanny "what the hell is going to happen next" quotient. As punches winged, the crowd roared. They were getting exactly what they'd come to see. The potential was enough. It's a lesson that should serve Slice well, whether he evolves into a top-10 heavyweight or not.

Three times Ferguson dropped Abbott, slow and awkward next to the quick bursts that the fight-for-dough street brawler brought into the EliteXC cage. Hooks and straights came heavy and hard. There was no pretense, no feeling out process. This was, as the billing suggested, "street certified."

In that manic pace resided the truly intriguing thing about Slice, blunt-loving family man: he was prepared to, if necessary, fight like a professional.

"I was expecting Tank to come out, possibly with a takedown, possibly with a sloppy left to try to plant his right," Ferguson said. "In a sense I was well prepared to come with anything he was gonna come with, like my trainers train me to be for any of my fights."

And that is where, in just two fights, he's already differentiated himself from "Tank."

While Abbott, 42, has relied on his persona and heavy right hand, Slice is actually trained and learned. Under the tutelage of Rutten and Randy Khatami, the unique Ferguson stands to become a unique fighter, though Abbott was still reserving judgment.

It's Ferguson's aptitude for fighting, which Rutten said was evident when the new pro made adjustments during Saturday's fight, that could set him apart from other brawlers who tried to make it big in MMA.

"At the moment you saw he was too close [to connect with punches on Abbott], he was realizing he was too close," the trainer said. "He corrected that in the cage. And for a fighter that is something that is very rare. With that said, he's got a lot of talent."

Talent, charisma and an innate ability to captivate an audience has EliteXC and Showtime excited about Kimbo Slice.

"I think he could be one of the anchors of our company for a long time, because he's the type wherever he goes, he's going to attract attention," said promoter Gary Shaw.

He already has.
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