By Peter Lim
Former heavyweight contender Lou Savarese compiled a record of 46-7 (38 KOs) in a career that spanned from 1989-2007, but he will start with a clean slate tonight as he makes his MMA debut at the Bayou City Events Center in Houston. Over the course of his career, Savarese battled the likes of George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Tim Witherspoon and Buster Douglas, all of whom were past their primes. In his first fight with bare feet, knuckle pads and exposed fingers, Saverese faces Timothy Papp (1-7).
“It’s something on my bucket list,” Savarese told The Houston Chronicle. “A lot of people think I’m crazy but I want to give myself a shot, just try it and see how I do. I’ve been sparring with some pretty good guys and I seem to be faring pretty well.”
In addition to his long-time boxing trainer Bobby Benton, Savarese, 47, has enlisted the expertise of Saul Solis for jujitsu and Chase Corley for Muay Thai. Solis has been a trainer and promoter of MMA for over 20 years. Corley, 28, fought 30 professional Muay Thai bouts in Thailand before converting to boxing last year and is 3-0 (3 KOs) in the sweet science.
Pugilists who began as boxers have done reasonably well at MMA with early transitions. But the highest profile boxers, set in their ways after years of Marquis of Queensbury warfare, seemed clueless as to defending themselves against non-punching maneuvers when crossing over into a different battlefield. Most recently, a 44-year-old Riddick Bowe was stopped by leg kicks in his Muay Thai debut. James Toney was taken to the ground and submitted in the cage. And Ray Mercer was stopped by a single kick to his knee.
Growing up in The Bronx, Savarese got into numerous street fights and practiced taekwondo, so he was not completely alien to the multiple facets of hand-to-hand combat when he began MMA training a year and a half ago. A hulk of a heavyweight at 6'5" and 250 pounds, Savarese said he is surprisingly agile and versatile with his legs.
“I’m very good with my kicks,” Savarese said. “Long before boxing, I was doing taekwondo and I’ve kept it going.”
Savarese's fight will be the only MMA bout on the card. In the other bouts:
Heavyweight Darlington Agha (8-0, 6 KOs) takes on Terell Woods (3-7, 3 KOs) over six rounds.
Alex Black (4-3) faces Randy Reyes (0-2) in a junior middleweight bout.
Preston Kenney (5-17, 5 KOs) takes on Wilson Rodriguez (1-1) in a super middleweight bout.
Flyweight Josue Morales makes his pro debut against Richard Hernandez (0-6).
And lightweights Omer Tello and Ronald Nowden square off in their pro debuts.
The card will be staged by Savarese Boxing Promotions.