By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It’s fight week once again for Terri Moss
And while there are no titles on the line and her name won’t be announced as one of the competing principals, it’s still the same old feeling of stress as opening-bell time draws closer.
The 5-foot-1 dynamo, who consistently weighed in just a shade or two north of 100 pounds, hasn’t stepped through the ropes as a professional for more than seven years. But, she concedes, a life that used to revolve around fight preparation and competition has become many worlds more hectic.
The eighth incarnation of her pet project – Atlanta Corporate Fight Night – goes off at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Foundry at Puritan Mill. And while it’s still a concept that matches accounts against tax attorneys and insurance agents against school admins, Moss gets revved as if belts were at stake.
The Corporate Fight Night model, a twice-yearly fixture in Georgia, sprang from Moss’s desire to give business people the chance to experience what she did 18 times between 2002 and 2007 in a pro career that ultimately earned her a world title – the WIBF’s 105-pound crown – in her final outing at age 41.
“The show is like a machine that almost runs by its own momentum,” she said. “So luring people isn't something I have to do anymore. The more it grows, the more bells and whistles I like, though.”
Among the bells and whistles this time is heavyweight championship progeny Evan Holyfield on the bill, and the Wounded Warrior Project as the high-profile charity beneficiary.
“It will be a big, shiny star for this one,” she said.
We caught up with Moss during a brief moment of event-week downtime to discuss her show, the stress level behind the scenes and what Corporate Fight Night might look like in the future.
When you were getting ready for the first go-round, did you ever think it would evolve into such a successful event?
From the beginning, I had a vision of a big show, so though it does seem a little surreal to see it actually coming together, it's going where I planned it go to and much further still to come.
Behind the scenes, what are the biggest challenges in putting these things together? What does the public not know about what’s involved?
As in any boxing promotion the three biggest challenges are getting the right boxers on the show, getting it paid for and getting a great production off the ground. I think the main thing the public doesn't know if how much wine it takes at night to keep our nerves down in order to make it happen.
You were a high-level professional fighter, so assess the people who take part. How many of the people who get in the ring for these things can actually fight – or how many have somewhat respectable skills?
Well, that's a matter of opinion. These are all amateur fights, so don't expect Pacquiao/Marquez. But some of them are very competitive. I've had some very skilled fights, and some that were pretty scary. It all depends on the boxer pool. I like to get at least one advanced match on each show. But likewise, I want people to know that anyone willing to get in there and make a commitment to training, etc., has a chance as long as I can find a proper and legal match for them.
How many of them get to the last 30 minutes or 15 minutes before their fights, and start to freak out backstage? Has anyone ever bailed on you that late in the game?
Most of them definitely freak, they just do it a little sooner. This is a very intimidating thing for them to experience. I tell them all – the ring exposes everything. It doesn't matter what you do, or who you are outside of the ring, because when you're in there, you're just two naked people with nothing in there but your will and character. I haven't had one leave right at the stage door so far, thankfully. And the people who come out for this kind of challenge usually aren't the kind of people who don't follow through. We do some pretty involved background work on anyone who auditions for the show and we are very selective.
You hear so many former athletes say it’s difficult to walk away, that the hunger never really leaves. Is that the case with you? Being around it so much, do you still feel like you want to compete?
It's absolutely true. It's hard to walk away. That's why I haven't. I am just as hungry as ever, on a mission. I have a goal to be the best. The only difference is the path I'm on. I didn't leave, I just reinvented myself to fit what works better for me beyond fighting. Not that I wouldn't love to fight, but that's not wise for me now. Instead, I will aim to promote the biggest and best and to train world champions. My fighters (in my gym) will be my future in the ring. And it's just as good to see them aspire as it was for me to experience it.
How much of a challenge is it each year to make it bigger and better or more interesting, or just different? After this one is done on Thursday, when do you start planning the next one?
It would seem like a challenge. But my fantastic staff and I ware always milling around the gym, throwing out ideas for the next theme. Mostly we laugh a lot, but then the next thing you know, we have a hit. From here I'm trying to get things off the ground with the USA Boxing people in Tennessee, so we can go to Nashville and Chattanooga. From there, other states. I would like to begin a show in Las Vegas as well. And we have partners in the UK who want to do some UK shows, both here and abroad. Who knows? Maybe 10 years from now I will be ready to hang up the gloves on CFN, but for now, we’re still climbing the rankings until we get the titles we want.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBC light heavyweight title – Montreal, Canada
Adonis Stevenson (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Andrzej Fonfara (No. 3 contender/No. 14 IWBR)
Stevenson (23-1, 20 KO): Third title defense; Thirteen straight stoppage wins (59 total rounds)
Fonfara (25-2, 15 KO): Second title fight (1-0); Held IBO title at 175 pounds (2012, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Every time I envision this bout I see Stevenson having more trouble than he’s recently been accustomed to. Still can’t pull the upset trigger, but it won’t stun me.” Stevenson by decision
WBC featherweight title – Acapulco, Mexico
Jhonny Gonzalez (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Clive Atwell (No. 12 contender/No. 80 IWBR)
Gonzalez (55-8, 47 KO): First title defense; Won 10 straight fights in Mexico
Atwell (12-0-1, 7 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Guyana
Fitzbitz says: “There are a few certainties in practical life. Women love guys who can dance, three-of-a-kind beats two pairs … and guys named Clive don’t win world boxing championships.” Gonzalez in 7
Last week's picks: 1-0
2014 picks record: 35-8 (81.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 582-202 (74.2 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.