SUNRISE, Fla. – The legend of Kimbo Slice was built by beating bums in boat yards and back alleys not far from here. It came crashing down Saturday courtesy of a quick punch from a pink-haired journeyman giving up two inches in height, four in reach and 30 pounds in muscle and might.
One simple shot sent Slice to the canvas and from there some guy named Seth Petruzelli needed just 12 punches and 14 seconds to put an end (we hope) to one of the great sporting charades of all time.
It was just a matter of time before Kimbo got exposed. He was little more than a character out of central casting, a bunch of addictive YouTube videos and a lot of insane hype by CBS, which made him a headliner before he made himself a fighter.
He was the Kimbo the Cash Machine, everyone lining up to exploit the lie that this was the baddest man on earth as long as he could walk through hand-picked tomato cans.
Only this time his match with 44-year-old Ken Shamrock, who hadn’t won a fight in over four years, fell apart when Shamrock cut his eye in a light training session Saturday and was deemed unfit to fight by state officials.
In the scramble to find a suitable replacement that Slice couldn’t possibly lose to, EliteXC considered Shamrock’s brother, Frank, who was there to be CBS’s color commentator, hadn’t fought lately due to a broken arm and would have given up around 45 pounds. Despite all this, Frank likely would have submitted Kimbo in the first round.
When that matchup couldn’t happen (EliteXC said state officials wouldn’t clear him, Frank said they did but CBS blocked it), EliteXC promoters turned to Petruzelli. The Fort Myers, Fla., native had been dumped by the big-league UFC, was just 2-2 since 2004, had recently taken a year off to start a business, weighed just 205 (to Kimbo’s 235) and was so lightly regarded he was competing in the non-televised undercard.
Despite the oft-repeated propaganda that Slice was a man of “courage” for taking a fight with this smaller guy who was likely to stand and trade punches anyway, EliteXC paid Kimbo a cash bonus just to get him to step into the cage.
“We made it up to him,” said Jeremy Lappen, EliteXC’s head of fight operations. He wouldn’t disclose the amount.
For the myth of Slice, the matchup may not be a 44-year-old on a losing streak or someone from the broadcast booth, but really, what was the worst thing that could happen?
“It didn’t feel too flush,” Petruzelli said of the first punch that apparently didn’t even need to land squarely to fell Kimbo.
Make no mistake – or listen to the EliteXC spin – this was a disaster for Slice and the company. “This is MMA, all the best have lost,” said Lappen. True, but Kimbo wasn’t defeated by a crafty Brazilian jiu-jitsu master. He wasn’t caught in a submission by an experienced wrestler. He didn’t lose a decision after a three-round brawl.
Those would be understandable considering his novice status.
Kimbo was KTFO by a guy he absolutely towered over yet was willing to bang with him anyway. Not that Kimbo did any banging. Slice charged him (“He was like a truck,” Petruzelli said) but he never actually landed a punch.
In the end, Kimbo’s hand speed, defense and chin proved incapable against even an average mixed martial artist. Which was pretty much what every hardcore fan had predicted.
Not that CBS didn’t keep up with the Slice willing to fight, “anyone, anywhere, at anytime.” This was a 100 percent true statement if “anyone, anywhere, at anytime” means “no one any good, anywhere, ever.”
Slice seemed stunned and a bit saddened at the turn of events. After it was over, he initially began wrestling the referee. Whether that was a protest for the decision or because he was dazed isn’t certain. Then he walked around the cage complaining to fans about the stoppage.
Later he walked out on his CBS interview (“Kimbo?” asked a stunned Gus Johnson), although not before inviting America to an after party at a local nightclub. Then he showed up 45 minutes late for the main press conference, where he gave a quick statement and bailed.
“I got my first black eye,” he laughed. He later turned to Petruzelli and joked, “You knocked me out in front of my family; that’s (expletive) up.”
Through it all Slice remained the only likable character of this foolish farce. He wasn’t the one claiming he was the best in the world. He was just a working-class dude who figured out how to beat the system and cash in on his 15 minutes of fleeting fame.
He’s got kids to feed and bills to pay and right to the end, he was milking bonuses out of the promotion, a one-time homeless man holding the Tiffany Network’s prime-time programming hostage. Only in America.
He was the grand actor in the middle of a three-ring circus, a tall tale that would eventually come tumbling down under the bright glare of reality.
Where Slice goes from here is anyone’s guess. He can’t rebuild his reputation without stepping up in competition from the guy who just beat him in seconds. He can’t headline a card and have anyone believe he’s legit. He can’t claim he, “just got caught” when it wasn’t some wild, roundhouse right or sneaky arm-bar that did him in.
The truth was always coming for Kimbo. Saturday it arrived sooner rather than later, the money train grinding to a halt courtesy of a smaller, less heralded fighter that no one can claim is some elite champion.
No, this was it. It’ll never be the same, not for the fighter and not, perhaps, for his entire promotion that just lost its signature star on top of the $58 million it’s burned the past two years.
Afterward, EliteXC execs tried to paint a bright future but admitted they needed a drink. Lower-level employees used gallows humor about finding new jobs.
Kimbo just said he was going home to see his kids.
In 14 seconds flat, the whole mirage was gone.