Duran Caferro back into action in Townsend
By Brian D’Ambrosio
At 25, Duran Caferro Jr., has won nine out of his first ten professional bouts.
On Saturday night, he looks to delight the crowd at the Broadwater County Fairgrounds, in Townsend, with a dazzling repeat performance.
In January, Caferro dispatched Lawrence Hughes in five rounds.
His game plan is unpretentious: take another step in advancing a promising career.
Reymundo Hernandez, age 34, is a slick and shifty journeyman, a shopworn veteran, who is much better than his 6-16 record suggests.
“I’m pretty much floating by myself,” said Hernandez. “No corner, no trainers – plenty of out-of-state fights. Duran comes with a lot of good footwork and throws good combinations. I’m the shorter fighter. He’s pretty tall – real tall. I need to get inside and just go from there.”
Hernandez has played the role of spoiler before, defeating an unbeaten pugilist named Noah Zuhdi, in Oklahoma City, on February 11, 2010.
“I watch the fighters before the fight,” said Hernandez. “Noah, that dude, he was 9-0, and he was walking around flamboyantly, talking, and talking, and thinking about the crowd. I caught him with a right hand in the first round. I look and I observe, and I’m not one to be disrespected. It motivates me.”
Even though he has seven kayoes to his credit, Duran Caferro isn’t one to let an opponent’s record bolster his confidence. He understands that boxing is known as the theatre of the unexpected for good reason.
“That’s the thing,” said Caferro. “In boxing, you don’t let the record fool you. Reymundo has good power in his right hand. He has some problems, and I’m looking to exploit those problems. But you can’t be overconfident. When you are wearing eight ounce gloves, there is a fine line between standing up and being knocked down. Any fight can change with one punch, one big shot.”
Caferro and Hernandez will meet at welterweight, 142 pounds, which is two pounds more than Caferro’s normal size at light welterweight (140). Hernandez is most comfortable at light middleweight (147-154).
Caferro said that he plans to start slow, jabbing, moving, and working on his timing and body movement.
“I generally throw less than 20 punches in the first round,” said Caferro. “The third round is usually when I bring the highlight reel stuff. But Reymundo may come right at me, so I’ve got to pay close attention to my defense and timing. Sometimes it’s hard to get one hundred percent into the fight until you get clocked.”
Reymundo will enter the fairgrounds with a record of 6-16, with six wins coming by knockout. He has been boxing since 2007, losing his last seven straight. In 2012, he was beaten by lightweight Mason Menard, who is currently 28-1.
“Junior is more skilled than Reymundo,” said Duran Caferro Sr. “Reymundo is heavier, and he has power in both hands. And it’s important that Junior not lose focus and not get hit.”
“It should turn into a battle of wits over strength and power,” said Duran Caferro Jr. “And I feel that I’m the better fighter.”
Hernandez, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, said that he is coming to Montana to give a good account of himself and to “give the best show I can give.”
Hernandez said that he will not be befuddled by Caferro’s sharp boxing. Caferro said that he will meet the onrushing Hernandez with footwork and counters and he will land enough right hand bombs to hold the crowd’s attention.
The final word, of course, will be spoken on Saturday, which will feature a mix of amateur and professional fights.
“I respect him and his fighting ability,” said Hernandez, who is nicknamed “The Prosecutor.” “I’ve got a good right hand, and if he runs into it, he’ll feel it. May the best man win it.”
Boxing’s Big Night in Belgrade on April 5
By Brian D’Ambrosio
Several people have said that the boxing scene in Montana is a joke.
But there isn’t a trace of a smirk on the face of promoter Hollis Huggins.
Boxing’s reputation is badly in need of a shot of pizzazz, and Huggins knows it.
One of the steps in this resurrection takes place on April 5 at the Silver Spur Arena and Event Center in Belgrade.
Some boxing events end up looking like vaudeville shows – fans are treated to a bit of melodrama, a couple of comedy acts, a tragedy, a dance act, and, lastly, a fight.
This one should be all fight.
In one of the night’s four professional bouts (the card includes several semi-pro matches and MMA competitions), Jesse Uhde (3-4), of Lakeside, meets Daniel Gonzalez (11-29), of Billings, for the newly formed Montana State junior middleweight championship (147-154).
Gonzalez is no stranger to long nights in the trenches. He has on numerous occasions gone six or more rounds; this will be Uhde’s first time fighting for six rounds.
“I’m going to be fighting really confidently,” said Uhde. “He’s fought 6, and 8, and 10 rounders many times, but I think that, skill-wise, and as far as speed and strength, I’ve got him beat. I’ve sparred for 12 rounds, and have been getting prepared for 10.”
Uhde is willing to trade punches without running away, and neither of the two fighters could ever be classified as overly-cautious. Gonzalez, 35, is a tough guy whose style will shed some blood on the trunks. (How tough is Gonzales? He was unavailable for comment because he is down in the mine shafts of North Dakota, working a straight five-day shift.)
“I’m not going to stand in front of him,” said Uhde, 35. “I’ve got twice the speed and I’m not planning on being easy to hit. If I do take a shot, I need to stay on my toes, and not get lured into a brawl. His game is to come forward – and keep coming forward.”
Uhde said that he plans to mix his punches well, directing most of them to the head, but switching occasionally to the body. Uhde the slugger plans to become Uhde the boxer.
“Both Jesse and Danny are two good fighters, who will mix it up and bang,” said Huggins. “Neither of these two guys will disappoint. Danny takes on all comers, and he has fought some great prospects. These guys are warriors. And it could be something of a crossroads fight for these guys. Somebody is going to take a new belt home and gain a lot of confidence to move forward.”
Huggins said that the Montana junior middleweight belt could become one of the most coveted titles in state sports. He already has a challenger lined up to fight the newly minted champion, perhaps even as early as September.
The main event features Mexican fighting legend Yory Boy Campas in an eight-round middleweight bout with a hardnosed Ukrainian named Mikhail Lyubarsky.
Other action will see a four-round match featuring former Montana lightweight champion Chris Asher against Eric Mafnas; Cotton Root battles Kevin Tjaden in a four-rounder.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Lyubarsky fights out of Hollywood, California. He owns a 3-15 record and has not won a fight since 2006.
Campas hopes to dispatch of Lyubarsky early and move on to at least one more bout as a major-gate attraction.
But that’s jumping the gun.
Getting past the Ukrainian is no minor hurdle. At 25, he doesn’t plan on going down in a heap, trapped underneath a prone body. He plans to fight.
“I’ve got nothing lined up past Yory Boy,” said Lyubarsky. “He’s my focus. I do have upsets on my record, including Donald Goodwin. I happened to be fighting in other guys’ backyards a lot, and it’s hard sometimes to get a fair handshake.”
Lyubarsky is more than a boxer; he is a student and historian of the sport. He has sparred with some of the best in the game, and he is training vociferously at the Hollywood Gym. He has fought in seven different weight classes.
“I’ve been away for the past three years,” said Lyubarsky. “I kept asking myself why I wanted to be involved in a sport that hasn’t given me love in return. Boxing wasn’t paying the bills. I love the sport, really. I’m back for Yory Boy. I believe in my power, and I believe in my conditioning and my training, and I know what is at stake.”
Lyubarsky understands the stakes, and so, too, does Huggins. As do all of the sponsors who’ve graciously supported Huggins. That list includes Insty-Prints of Belgrade; Mystery Ranch of Bozeman; Little Stinkers Septic Services; the Holiday Inn Bozeman; Belgrade Studios; North Star Services; EZ Auto Sales; AFT Salvage; Ressler Motors; Buds; The Art of Contrology; The Spotted Horse Café; Ben Thiede; and Doctor Green Thumb.
With Helena’s lightweight prospect Duran Caferro staying active, and another potential card discussed in September, maybe, just maybe, all that talk of the great passing of boxing will be rendered obsolete.
Previous ESPN Montana articles by Brian D'Ambrosio are here.
General tickets are $20 in advance or $30 at the door. Ringside tickets are $40 and tables for six are $450 and tables for eight are $800. Tickets are available at the 49er Diner in Livingston, Belgrade Pilates, Insty Prints of Belgrade and the Three Forks Market. For information, call 406-209-1386 or 406-596-0416.
Dylin Drivdahl’s Fighting Chance in Mixed Martial Arts
By Brian D’Ambrosio
A couple of years ago, Dylin Drivdahl experienced some serious rites of passage and an exhausting bit of turmoil in his life – sinking grades, troubles at home, truancy.
But he eventually found his place in a sport in which men undergo pain and encounter the reality of death in order to test themselves. Participation in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has helped Dylin,16, smooth over the rough places in his life.
A freshman at Helena High School, he has been training for two years at Helena’s Team Proven Grounds.
“I went to fighting all of the time to getting good grades,” says Drivdahl. “There was a lot of bad stuff and now I’m more disciplined, straight-thinking.”
We live in a world of pain and acceptance, of thresholds and limitations, a world of might – all of us. The soul of this generation is heavily fixed in the soul of mixed martial arts.
For Dylin, MMA is about defying limits and pushing the boundaries of his own willpower. It’s about leading the sort of life that he wants to lead – and getting to better places with it.
Muay Thai Debut
In his Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) debut, on February 15, 2014, Drivdahl battled a vastly more experienced 25-year-old opponent named Dante Perry, and he earned a three-round unanimous decision.
“He was the oldest guy I’ve ever fought,” says the Helena teen. “He was probably the strongest, too. He had a short and stocky build. It was definitely a close fight. He had some pretty good kicks. He got me with a pretty good one to the hip in the second round.”
Drivdahl knew that heading into the competition, the bout would require a top physical and mental effort on his part.
“I tried to circle, use a lot of head movement,” says Drivdahl. “I really didn’t want him to hit me. But he got me a couple of times against the ropes, but I circled out.”
Dylin has three kickboxing bouts (1-2) and an MMA victory under his belt, too.
“With kickboxing, it’s more about blocking and kicking. With Muay Thai, it’s about power and how much damage you can do. In Muay Thai, you can clinch, you can knee.”
In his pro MMA debut early this year, Drivdahl toppled a 17-year-old fighter in 39 seconds, in Billings, taking him out of contention with a sly rear naked choke.
MMA Bout April 5
On April 5, Dylan is slated to compete in an MMA bout at the Silver Spur Arena and Event Center in Belgrade. He will be fighting at 130 pounds. “There is nothing like MMA,” says Drivdahl. “I’ll be working on my Muay Thai and my ju-jitsu skills for the fight. I feel as if my most strength is on the ground. I wanted to show people that I have stand-up, too, which is why I took the Muay Thai fight.”
Drivdahl was introduced to MMA by a friend and he has never left its rugged story.
Nicknamed “The Dragon,” Drivdahl understands that in the Octagon, or any other fighting arena, you’ve got no one else to blame for your own misfortune or dread or disappointment. One of the greatest blessings any fighter can have at fight time is mental clarity.
“I really do my best to clear my mind before a fight, and I don’t let anything bug me or get in my way before a fight.”
MMA has awakened a personal curiosity in Dylin, forcing him to think about exactly who and what he really is. Johnny Aho is Dylin’s father and coach. He says that he has seen the teenager become more disciplined in his approach to life, more focused on achieving positive results.
“He’s got a 3.75 GPA, and I’m more proud of ‘The Dragon’ for bettering his grades than for winning a fight,” says Aho.
In preparation for his upcoming fight, Drivdahl is putting in as many hours of hard conditioning work as he can.
“I am going to focus on cardio. Ninety percent of the fight is cardio.”
Quick changes can come into life at any moment, and a sudden flip of fortune can lead to anywhere. If there is an opportunity, Dylin says that he isn’t going to let it slip failingly from his grasp. At 16, he possesses the same dreams and desires that are common to youth.
“I want to go big,” says Drivdahl. “I really do. I want to go all the way to the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). That’s the dream. That’s the goal.”
General admission tickets to the April 5 ‘Warriors World Class Fighters’ are $20 in advance; $30 at the door. In the main event, the Mexican boxing legend Yory Boy Campas is slated for an eight-round bout with a hardnosed Ukrainian named Mikhail Lyubarsky. Other Team Proven Grounds members will be involved in MMA bouts as well. For more information, call (406) 209-1386.
Mexican Fighting Legend in Montana
By Brian D’Ambrosio
Yory Boy Campas has been to places inside himself that most people would never risk venturing. Despite 101 wins and 79 knockouts, he is still hungry and tenacious after decades in the fight game.
At age 42, Campas (101-17-3) is a Mexican fighting legend. He has faced several critical moments of truth. He doesn’t plan to linger in our midst in a lesser form. He will be back at work on April 5 in Montana, on the road to perhaps another marquee shot.
Born in Sonora, Mexico, Luis Ramon Campas stacked up a 37-0 record (34 knockouts) before his 21st birthday.
Only after he had approximately 50 bouts did he begin boxing in the United States, in the early 1990s. A longtime favorite at the former Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, Campas is an eternal soldier, tearing into his opponents with strong shoulders and thrashing body blows. He likes to finish the opposition – and that’s always been part of his appeal.
Campas still elicits cheers and songs among his contingent of Mexican and Mexican-American fans. South of the border, his name reverberates. If you were to introduce him in the center of the ring, in, say, Sonora, or, somewhere in California, the audience would roar with delight.
And that is for good reason.
Career of Yory Boy Campas
On December 6, 1997, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Campas became world champion by dismantling the previously unbeaten Raul Marquez (28-0 at the time) on an eighth-round TKO.
Campas walked into the Atlantic City Convention Hall as a 7-5 underdog. In a display typical of Campas’ consummate hardiness, he upset Marquez to win the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) junior middleweight crown.
At the age of 26, after 70 total professional fights and two failed title shots, Campas won his first championship at the 2:29 mark when the fight was stopped with Marquez barely able to defend himself. Campas’ relentless assault left Marquez unable to see out of his right eye.
Campas defended his title three times, beating Anthony Stephens, Pedro Ortega, and Larry Barnes.
On December 12, 1998, Campas was stopped in the seventh round against Fernando Vargas. On May 3, 2003, he tried to capture the WBC and WBA light middleweight titles against Oscar de la Hoya, but lost by knockout in round seven.
Since the loss to de la Hoya, Campas has lived a hard life in a hard game that has perpetually given him humility and a sense of pride. (Boxing has not given Campas his rightful riches, but that’s a story to be explored in depth another time.)
His September 2006 war at Madison Square Garden with Ireland's John Duddy was ‘Fight of the Year’ material. Campas lost a unanimous decision in one of the most vicious and action-packed fights in recent years.
On March 30, 2012, Campas chalked up his 100th career victory via a second-round knockout of Mauro Lucero.
On April 5 at the Silver Spur Arena and Event Center in Belgrade, Campas is slated for an 8 round bout with a hardnosed Ukrainian named Mikhail Lyubarsky.
Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Lyubarsky fights out of Hollywood, California. He owns a 3-15 record and has not won a fight since 2006.
“Don’t let the record fool you,” says promoter Hollis Huggins. “Just look at who he has fought, a lot of tough prospects. Remember the sport we are dealing with. Some of those fights he accepted just an hour or a day before the fight. Can Mikhail beat Yory Boy? Absolutely. It’s a dangerous fight for Yory Boy, and it will be a war. He’s a tough, stubborn Russian kid who is much younger than Yory, and is in great shape. You should see the mountains this guy runs. Mikhail is training his butt off.”
Campas’ nickname, “Yory Boy,” or “White Boy,” derives from a Mexican indigenous word to describe light-skinned Indians who populate his region of northwest Mexico. He is humble and quiet, and he hopes that another title fight is on the horizon after he dispatches Lyubarsky.
“Montana is a good place to concentrate, to think,” Campas says in broken English before a workout at a ranch in Three Forks. “The people of Montana are very good.”
Campas says that recently he had the chance to mingle with the small Mexican population in Belgrade.
“Nice people,” says Campas. “All people in Montana have been very nice.”
Some boxers live careers that are so much of a sideshow that they should be traveling with a band of carnies instead of an entourage. Not Campas.
“Yory Boy is a clean person,” says manager and trainer Joe Diaz, who has worked with Campas since December of 2003. “He lives cleanly, no drugs, no alcohol, and no problems with women. He has been married to the same woman forever. He’s a family man, a good man.”
Diaz says that Campas will offer the Montana crowd a speedy, efficient lesson in the fundamentals of boxing.
“He’ll knock him out quickly with body shots,” says Diaz. “No doubt about it.”
Campas knows that in the fight game one punch separates boxing heaven from a tumble down to the bottom. He is preparing in earnest.
“I feel good,” says Campas. “I feel ready.”
Hollis Huggins says that he is proud to have Campas on his fight card and that the presence of the former world champion should inspire the undercard fighters.
In other action, a six-round Montana junior middleweight title bout between Jesse Uhde and Daniel Gonzalez; a four-round match featuring former Montana lightweight champion Chris Asher against Eric Mafnas; Cotton Root battles Mario Riojas in a four-rounder.
“To have Yory Boy boxing here in Montana is a true honor,” says Huggins. “I hope that he will inspire our boxers here in Montana, and that boxing in Montana will once again be a serious, respected business. To have a legendary trainer in Joe Diaz and a legendary boxer in Yory Boy Campas, will only raise the bar for everybody. Their dedication to boxing gives the state of Montana the hope and the belief that it can succeed in boxing as well.”
General admission tickets to the April 5 ‘Warriors World Class Fighters’ are $20 in advance; $30 at the door. For more info, call (406) 209-1386.
Original Calgary Flame Jim Peplinski Looks Back
By Brian D’Ambrosio
(like articles like this?....get Brian's new book here)
When Jim Peplinski entered the NHL more than three decades ago, players didn't look to the officials to solve their problems. Rectifying disputes wasn't the referee's strong suit, and the concept of a diving penalty could not be assimilated into the hockey mind.
Players policed themselves -- and they, for the most part, respected one another's space.
"In eight hundred hockey games, I don't believe I was ever, even once, hit from behind by another player," says Jim Peplinski, 52, who played with the Calgary Flames from 1980-1990, and once again, briefly, in 1994.
Peplinski and the Calgary Flames share roots.
The Renfro, Ontario native was selected 75th overall by the Atlanta Flames at the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. When the team relocated to Canada, Peplinski became an original member of the Calgary Flames, notching 38 points and lacing the skates in all 80 of their inaugural season games.
The sort of game that the 20-year-old forward encountered in 1980 would be unrecognizable to a rookie in 2014. Today's game is quicker, the players' skills are broader, the fourth lines are more formidable, and a series of rules have drastically reduced or eliminated the game's earlier emphasis on those more ruffian tactics.
"It was a different type of contest back then," says Peplinski. "In the 1980s, if you weren't prepared to fight or to be physical, in many cases, you didn't play. The league has tried to put in rules that make players feel more comfortable. I think that players are just as courageous today, but they are more skilled, faster and stronger. Hockey, I believe, can be just as exciting today and just as physical, without some of the sideshow stuff. And I'm not trying to take away from career pugilists."
As a Flame, Peplinski found himself enmeshed in the heat and intensity of the Battle of Alberta on multiple occasions, matched up against a seemingly endless supply of stern rivals on the Edmonton Oilers.
"The rules back then couldn't protect No. 99, so Glen Sather had to," says Peplinski. "Love them or hate them, they had a great wolf pack mentality. Wayne Gretzky was so good that a lot of teams tried to bring the Oilers down to their level by being more physical with them. Calgary wasn't geared toward that mindset. But Sather responded because he had to. Pairing Dave Semenko with Gretzky and Jari Kurri was brilliant."
Peplinski had his name etched on the Calgary Flames' first Stanley Cup in 1988-1989, the year they dispatched the Montreal Canadiens in six games. However, one of the Flame forward's most memorable moments took place a few years earlier in the 1986 Stanley Cup Final. Peplinski and the pesky Montreal forward Claude Lemieux came together during a post-game melee.
One of the strangest incidents of its time, Lemieux gouged at Peplinski's eyes and then gnawed his finger to the bone. Peplinski skated to the penalty box and exhibited the bloody appendage to referee Denis Morel. As a precaution, he obtained a tetanus shot.
"Claude had been taking some liberties," says Peplinski. "He had been very vocal in that series. Very vocal. There had been a scrum at the end of the game, and I went to Claude and I thought, 'Okay, now it's you and me, no referees.' I was thinking, 'Will he stand up and go with me or try to get away?' Just as I thought, he tried really quickly to get the upper-hand, and he couldn't. So he tried to gouge me in the face and he bit my damn finger."
During the final altercation of his career, Peplinski got tangled up in another post-game, post-season fracas, this time with Chicago Blackhawks hothead Dave Manson. With his team beaten 5-2, at the final buzzer Manson crosschecked Flame linemate Tim Hunter. Seconds later, Joel Otto wrestled around with Blackhawks goaltender Alain Chevrier and Manson accosted Peplinski.
"I ended up paired with Manson," says Peplinski. "For some reason, he saw the need to fight. It was the last thing I wanted to do, because it was definitely not the time. I kept resisting. Finally, the referee came over and said, 'All right, go ahead.' I drilled him. Except for the fight I had with Dave Hutchinson, it was the only fight where I've ever knocked someone right down. I was resisting and resisting."
Peplinski says that the game he played in during the 1980s, while unquestionably a bit more violent, and occasionally a bit more of a spectacle than a sport, claimed a certain honor and integrity lacking in today's competition.
Headshots and cheap shots and the current lack of accountability can be whittled down to an absence of respect and perhaps too much of players relying on the referee and the rules for protection.
"At times, players forget to adhere to the adage of 'protect yourself at all times,'" says Peplinski. You need to be aware that you can be hit at any time. It seems as if that awareness isn't always there now."
Reflecting on all of the names and faces his career has crisscrossed with on the ice, Peplinski, fourth in the Flames' annals with 1,467 career penalty minutes, singles out Behn Wilson as one of the game's primary tough prototypes.
"Behn Wilson was a skilled guy who could default to Neanderthal behavior when he needed to," says Peplinski. "The toughest guys I ever played with were Joey Mullen and Doug Gilmour, against probably Glenn Anderson. After Behn Wilson, I'd say that Barry Beck, Clark Gillies, Bob Probert and Dave Brown were the best fighters. I have to say Tim Hunter was the best technical fighter I've ever seen."
Peplinski says that the purpose of fighting was never -- and should never be -- about injuring an opponent or absorbing a face full of knuckles, but demonstrating to teammates that you can account for yourself and keep the opposition honest. You win an honorable victory by showing up.
"To me, when Colton Orr fights, and he throws 20, but receives 18, that's not really winning."
His hockey experience has taught Peplinski to accept whatever comes his way and that the most important thing in life is that one faces it with courage and gives it the best effort he has. That philosophy led to the creation of Jim Peplinski Leasing in 1990. In addition to operating the Calgary-based, vehicle-leasing business across Canada and directing a public oil and gas company, Peplinski remains active with the Calgary Flames' alumni association and business development. He keeps active in charitable events and preserves a strong family life.
"Calgary is a great city," says Peplinski. "It's a city where people really work together. While I love the game, I try to get involved in things that are much broader in scope than skating up and down the ice."
The Personal Revolution of Ultra-runner Mike Wolfe
By Brian D’Ambrosio
Mike Wolfe is accustomed to hitting the trails.
Introduced to ultra-running by a pair of neighbors, his career began on the foothills around his hometown of Bozeman. He ran a 20-mile trail race, without any running shoes, at age 18.
At age 27, Wolfe began dashing over rough terrain again. By then, he had graduated from The College of Idaho with a political science degree and was preparing to enter law school at the University of Montana.
In 2010, Wolfe started work at the U.S. attorney’s office in Helena while competing on The North Face team. By 2011, UltraRunner magazine picked Wolfe second in its “Runners of the Year” award, and he earned a record-time win in the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile.
Juggling multiple daily training runs and a law career seemed incompatible. Wolfe felt time fading away. He enjoyed practicing law, but figured he’d be even better at something far more rousing. He did not feel as accomplished or in control of his fate as he had wished. He felt as if he needed to add new dimensions to his sense of self.
Wolfe’s personal revolution nudged him to leave his job at the U.S. attorney’s office, move to Missoula, and fully dedicate himself to his running career.
Wolfe visualized his success along with the specific obstacles he would face. Dreaming big is fun, but Wolfe was shrewd enough to set realistic expectations that prepared him better for the challenges ahead. He built his stamina incrementally, took his risks selectively.
The lifestyle change required round-the-clock mental adjustments; the successful ultra-runner’s existence commands nonstop preparation. Ultra-running is an extreme expenditure in balance, pain, time, temperature, limb positioning, and the ability to register hunger and thirst.
Prime of Career
Right now, Mike Wolfe is in the prime of his career.
“The goal or hope I had from the start, I wanted to go all out in endurance,” says Wolfe. “I thought it was best for me to quit my job and focus on this for a bit. It’s an awfully short window. It’s hard to say how long I can run for. Honestly, a lot depends on injuries and just being smart about taking the time to rest and recover. There are some guys that are in their early 40s competing, guys who are really smart about training and racing.”
Since ultra-running is a new sport it comes with the steepest of learning curves. Wolfe has perfected his training regimen and benefits greatly from his collective wisdom.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to give myself more rest periods throughout the year,” says Wolfe. “I’m focusing more on high-intensity quality than quantity. It’s about choosing workouts more wisely. To race well at an elite level, you need mental strength, focus, and composure. It’s probably sixty percent mental, forty physical.
When it comes to ultra-running, all the intricate zigzagging through rock, water, space and wilderness pales in comparison to the mechanics in your head.
“People ask a lot about the mental part,” says Wolfe. “There are those days when you run five miles and get bored or just want to turn your headphones on. But I’ve figured out how to turn the switch on and off. You have to be comfortable within your head space. You have to find a spot where you are comfortable. But, even still, long races get painful after a while.”
Wolfe’ s motivations have shifted throughout the years. Early on, he sought pure adventure and set out to prove to himself that he could cross the finish line.
“It was more about the adventure of running in the mountains and pushing myself,” says Wolfe.
While he is still rooted in the drive and desire of exciting activity, he is now more goal-oriented than ever.
“I want to do well in these races,” says Wolfe. “There is a desire to see if I can go to the next level, competing against the best in the world. I care about how I size up against the other guys. Ultimately, I want to see what I’m capable of.”
Yet, Wolfe is quick to admit that some of his proudest moments have been those when he barely mustered the fortitude to finish. “You learn more from those finishes, the ones you struggle to stay upright, coming in hours behind the top finisher, than anything else.”
John Muir Trail Record
It seems to be human nature to aim high and fall short. Not Wolfe. He aims high and hits the target. Wolfe started modestly and worked up to bigger challenges.
This past summer, he and a friend set a new speed record for a supported run on the John Muir Trail (JMT).
On August 1-4, 2013, Wolfe and Hal Koerner, 37, from Ashland, Oregon, covered the 223 miles from Whitney Portal in Bishop, California, to Happy Isles in Yosemite in 3 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes.
Digging deep from the gutsiest model of self-determination, the men ebbed and flowed with instinctive grit.
“Hal and I chatted on and off on day one, but I think we also settled quite quickly into the functional mode that made our partnership so strong and saw us through to the end. We swapped leads naturally, whenever one would stop for a bathroom break, water refill, or photo. But, other than that, we moved very fluidly, with the lead person often twenty or thirty yards ahead of the other. No talking, just movement.”
Marked by long expanses of rock and exposed heat, the trail’s rigors are many. With the exclusion of about 10 miles, the JMT rarely drops below 8,000 feet. There are six mountain passes, each higher than 11,000-feet, and a total of 84,000 feet of elevation change. Every whiff and noise forged a tight connection between runner and environment.
The pair slept a total of approximately five hours in three nights and spent their down time perusing a 10-page John Muir Trail map. Each page served as a milestone, the next destination.
Similar to a submarine, Wolfe scooted through the depths, probing the mountains and valleys, exploring inhospitable realms. Venturing into treacherous places dulled his perception.
“Serious sleep deprivation leaves your memory foggy. I remember certain sections, certain moments with vivid clarity. Surely instances burned into my memory that I’ll never forget. Then, other sections of our run are a blur, where I can’t even remember running entire sections of trail when I look back over the maps.”
Wolfe’s mode of living is simple: procrastinate less and tackle challenges enthusiastically. Ultra-running provides him with a sense of competence and autonomy, as well as the impression that he can freely choose his own life itinerary.
At 35, the next level is increased competition and bigger races against uppermost athletes.
“There are a handful of marque races for the sport,” says Wolfe. “I’d like to face the top athletes, and show up against the top athletes. There are some races in Europe I’d like to compete at – technical mountain courses.”
In Europe, ultra-running is a far more visible sport. But the trajectory of its popularity at home is undoubtedly rising, he says.
“Certainly the sport is on a huge upward curve across the board. It’s gotten huge in the last five, six years in the United States. There have been many one-hundred mile races in the last five, six years. Today, there are more sponsorships, more opportunities. It’s becoming a legitimate sport now. I’ll probably be an old has-been by the time it’s really grown.”
Mike Wolfe’s conditioning grounds are the slanted inclines and vertical mountains surrounding his Missoula home. Along these rises and slopes, he nurtures his self-discipline and incorporates the landscape in the most physically productive fashion.
“It’s certainly advantageous to be an ultra-runner who lives in the West. I’m out running in the hills all of the time. I enjoy it.”
Talking Old-Time Hockey with Tim Hunter
By Brian D’Ambrosio
Perhaps no one understands the evolution of the role of the NHL tough guy more so than Tim Hunter.
His credentials as one are distinguished: eighth on the NHL’s all-time penalty minute leaders list at 3,142; two-time NHL single season penalty minute frontrunner.
He saw plenty of action in his 16-year career (1981-1997), and encountered hundreds of other tough guys who could never approach or eclipse his longevity. Look at it this way: his inaugural bout came against Glen Cochrane, December 28, 1981, and he wrapped up his fistic days with an April 19, 1997 scrap with Ken Baumgarter.
In between, there were approximately 199 fighting majors, and dozens of epic tussles.
“There are not too many guys who’ve had more fights in the game than I have,” says Tim Hunter, 52, former assistant coach with the Washington Capitals.
When Hunter entered the league in 1981, the NHL could still prove to be a cauldron of bad blood, unbridled emotion spilling into bench clearing brawls and multiplayer melees.
His skills were soft, but his passion for survival was scorching.
“I was told in the Central Hockey League that in order to play, I had to be the best defenseman or the meanest son of a bitch in the league. I tried to be some of both. When I made it to the NHL, I really wasn’t capable of playing good hockey.”
Hunter evolved as a stronger skater and found his way; he laced up the skates in 947 NHL games, including more than 100 playoff competitions. The game allowed for that type of development back then.
“There’s no room for that type of player now,” says Hunter. “There is no room to evolve in today’s NHL. You have to be capable of playing and you have to win. You have to be capable of playing against any team and all players. There is less of a disparity between your first skater and twelfth skater now. You would be able to hide guys then – you can’t today.”
Limited role players don’t exactly thrive in today’s era, those multipurpose types who can be brutish, fight when needed, and even chip in the occasional goal.
“In my opinion, Shawn Thornton is the best today,” says Hunter. “He can play against anybody. He won’t dominate a guy like John Scott. But he won’t end up injured, either. Where Scott has trouble with the faster players, Thornton doesn’t. Fighting is still part of the entertainment package.”
Hunter’s first scrap in the league paired him up against veteran pugilist Glen Cochrane, of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“In reality, I wasn’t nervous,” says Hunter. “I fought every tough guy in the Central Hockey League and I had trained hard and prepared hard. Glen was a tough guy, probably around six-feet, four inches. I bumped him and he didn’t like it. I was always pretty well prepared. In my career, you can’t say that I was ever knocked down and left in a pool of my own blood.”
Hunter says that the majority, if not all, of his fights were spontaneous or related to the course of play. Very rarely, would he accept any premeditated invitations. Even though he was well-acquainted with rough elements, most of his battles, he says, were “spur of the moment.”
“I was never one of those guys who felt as if on the first shift you had to fight the other team’s tough guys,” says Hunter. “I never asked Cochrane, or Terry O’Reilly, or even Dave Semenko. I gave them no choice, or they gave me no choice. You know when it’s time. Later on, there were young guys who would want to fight right off of the faceoff, and I’d turn them down. I’d ask, ‘why are you here?’ Get out, play, do something, and give me a reason.”
Fighting has received a whopping black eye since the spate of deaths of NHL enforcers a few years ago. Looking for something to blame, many chose to attribute the stress of fighting for the off-ice problems of a few men who seemed to have a predisposition for danger.
“What troubles me,” says Hunter. “is that some people say that fighting was the cause of these deaths – Wade Belak, Rick Rypien – and that it was related to their job as a hockey player. Most tough guys lead normal lives, and I think that they would have had problems whether or not they worked at a gas station or were CEOs. I don’t believe it was hockey that did it to them. All players face pressure, even guys who score face pressure. What has happened is that fighting has been blamed, when it’s really been about addiction problems.”
Hunter has little or no sympathy for a player who embraced a role, signed a contract, received a paycheck, and then grumbles that hockey has scarred him for life.
“When I hear former tough guys complain, it makes me wonder why they didn’t just quit or get out of the game.”
Noted for his exceptional stamina and exceedingly long fights, Hunter was the NHL penalty-minute leader in 1986-87 (361 PIM’s in Calgary), and again with the Flames in 1988-89 (375 PIM); he is still the Calgary Flames career leader in penalty minutes, with 2,405. There are a few fights that poke through Hunter’s memory; a tussle with Kevin Maguire, his epic confrontations with archrival Dave Semenko; scraps with long-arm slinger Dave Brown; and encounters involving Nick Fotiu.
“Fighting in the playoffs was always more fun,” says Hunter.
In the first of his four fights with Edmonton Oilers’ Dave Semenko, in the playoffs, on April 17, 1983, Hunter tossed left after left against the wild-haired, helmetless enforcer. After the officials interceded, Semenko fired another shot. “Semenko suckered me over the top,” says Hunter. “I learned from that to protect myself at all times. There really is no code in fighting. If you drop your guard, you will get hurt. The code is a crock of shit – something that Don Cherry throws at people. Guys will do a lot of things, especially when you are dealing with a salary.”
“Nick Fotiu played in the 1970s,” continues Hunter. “I got into the game around the last part of that wild era. Fotiu was upset because I beat up Dan Maloney earlier in the period (on October 27, 1982), and Fotiu speared me with about seven seconds left. He hit me on the top of the head at the hairline, and my helmet just exploded.”
Years later, Hunter and Fotiu ended up as teammates in Calgary.
“Nick stepped in to fight Craig Coxe one night (on March 30, 1986),” says Hunter. “Nick hit Coxe and broke his orbital bone. Coxe just shakes his head and keeps fighting. I was shocked. I’ve never heard such an impact. It was amazing.”
Over the years, there were good nights, and, as the balance and law of averages dictates, not so good nights. But considering the amount of times he discarded the gloves and the escalating mass and size of the opposition he stood up to, he endured remarkably well, and incurred few injuries. There was one time in the early 1990s when he did break his ankle in a scrum against Buffalo. The Sabres’ were looking for revenge on Jamie Macoun, who had high-sticked Pat LaFontaine, in an earlier game. LaFontaine had lost bone and teeth and bled profusely from a severed facial artery. “Of all the guys to grab me, it was my ex-teammate Colin Patterson. I went down.”
Hunter’s policy on the ice was ordinarily an unpretentious cycle of battle, forgive, and then forget. The one exception to that rule was his relationship with Marty McSorley, who once had jumped Hunter and clawed at his face. The pair resolved their dispute with a second period grudge match, on October 10, 1991; McSorley was on the Los Angeles Kings and Hunter was a Flame then. Years later, the two tough guys ended up as his teammates in San Jose. “I’d sustained damage behind the eyeball once courtesy of Marty and his gouging,” says Hunter. “We had a pretty big fight in Los Angeles and I enjoyed that one. When we were in the locker room together, it was always in the back of my mind.”
Hunter, who has more than 1,000 games to his credit in fourteen years as an assistant coach, did not return to the Washington Capitals for the 2013-2014 season. When he does come back to a role behind the bench, there is no guarantee he will reserve a spot for a player who is practical with his fists.
“Good tough guys are really hard to find today,” says Hunter.
Guy Bingham’s Gridiron Days
By Brian D’Ambrosio
According to a recent NFL Players Association survey, the average career span of an NFL player is three and a half full seasons. This briefness is a result of both injuries and nonstop player transactions.
When looking back on his football career, Guy Bingham, who played center, guard and long snapper in the league for 13 seasons, starting in 1981, is most proud of his longevity.
“I was fortunate to be able to play so long. I had a pretty good run. It was great to have the opportunity to be a good teammate, and to be able to contribute," says Bingham, owner of Missoula’s Valley Vending, a snack and beverage vending supplier.
Bingham played his college football at the University of Montana and was inducted into the Grizzly Hall of Fame in September 2003. While playing for the Griz, “Bing” was an All-Big Sky Conference Team pick in 1978 and ‘79. He also earned UM’s Paul Weskamp Award presented to UM's “Outstanding Offensive Lineman” during 1978-79. Bingham played three different offensive line positions during his UM days.
“I grew up in the state of Washington and I came to visit Missoula on a recruiting trip, and I liked the city because it was a lot like my hometown of Aberdeen," says Bingham.
Although Bingham had hoped to play the linebacker position at UM, there was an overabundance of talent at that position when he’d arrived, so he was steered to the offensive line. During this time, Bingham was encouraged by teammate Ron Lebsock to also become a long snapper.
“Ron and I snapped the ball back and forth in practice on a daily basis. I learned through repetition. Long snapping is what kept me in the NFL, basically,” says Bingham.
In 1980, Bingham, who later graduated from UM with a degree in health and physical education, was drafted in the 10th round by the New York Jets. His draft notification came in the form of a phone call from Jets head coach Walt Michaels.
Not only is the speed different in the pros, but the level of competition is, too. The NFL Draft selects the best 250 or so players every year to develop and compete with the already established talent.
“The first day of mini-camp, I realized how much bigger and faster guys were. Johnny “Lam” Jones was the Jets number one draft choice that season and he was a world-class athlete. When wide receiver Bobby Jones bench pressed 225 pounds, 23 times, and I could only do it 17 or 18 times, I knew I had my work cut out for me."
Bingham remembers his first preseason game in the NFL was against the Chicago Bears at the Meadowlands, and says that he was thrilled to be playing in the same game as future Hall-of Famer Alan Page an immensely tough defensive lineman known primarily for his role as a rigorous member of the Minnesota Vikings famed “Purple People Eaters."
In another preseason game taking place his rookie season, Bingham was matched up against the legendary “Mean" Joe Greene. Greene’s NFL welcoming to Bingham was harsh and hostile.
“He was in late in the game and wed been double-teaming him. I thought we were blocking him pretty good. At one point, he snatched me off the ground, hit me in the stomach three times really fast, and then threw me down. I’ve since forgotten what he said to me."
In his first season as a New York Jet, Bingham started three games as an offensive lineman. During his career he played primarily as a long-snapper, but fulfilled duties as backup guard and center, in short yardage situations as a tight end, and on special teams units as a blocker.
Bingham played on the Jets at a period coinciding with the dawn of the “New York Sack Exchange," which was the nickname given to teams indomitable defensive line of the early to mid-1980s, anchored by ornery ends Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko.
“I think that Joe Klecko should be in the Hall of Fame. Playing and practicing against Joe Klecko made me a better player."
In 1989, Bingham was traded to the Atlanta Falcons. The season was an unmitigated disaster: Coach Marion Campbell quit after the club started out 3-9; he was replaced by Jim Hanifan, who watched as the team lost its final four games of the year, finishing 3-13.
“We had a crummy team. The highlight was that it was the rookie year for Deion Sanders. It was a big media show all the time. He’s a nice guy and a media machine."
Bingham played nine years for the Jets, three seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and a final year in 1993 with the Washington Redskins.
“I knew that I couldn’t do it forever. I ended up hurting my foot in training camp in a preseason game trying out for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992. Even though I played that year and the next one, it turned out to be a career ending injury."
Following the conclusion of his NFL career, Bingham returned to Montana to live and work as a full-time Missoulian. But after 14 years of playing professional football, he found that life after the NFL was a tougher adjustment than he’d ever expected.
“Fourteen years, plus college, of being told where to be and when to be there, got to be my life. After I left the game and was free to make my own decisions, it was hard for me to get a grip on things. Making your own schedule was hard for me," says Bingham, who lives in the Grant Creek area of the Garden City with his wife and two children.
Although he’s been involved with Valley Vending since 1988, Bingham’s experience as owner of the company dates back only a few years. Valley Vending has dozens of snack vending machines between Hamilton and Polson, and stretching from St. Regis to Deer Lodge. Route drivers are hired to fill these machines, and to keep them stocked and clean. The company also runs mobile coffee services throughout Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys.
“I’m still learning about the vending business and about business in general. Lately, I’ve found out that coffees a very competitive business," says Bingham.
When recollecting his life’s mileposts, Bingham, 55, sees the past in modest and unassuming terms, free from great pretensions.
“I’ve been lucky in life with everything. Plus, financially speaking, I’ve never made any really bad investments. And I’ve got a great agent who has always given me good advice. No joint replacements yet, either," smiles Bingham.
As far as trying to reconstruct his glory days, well, that’s not Bingham’s style. In fact, he only recently started watching and following NFL games and happenings again.
“I was pretty sick of football when I quit, especially the business side of it. I began paying attention to football last season because my son has taken a liking to it. I don’t miss playing football a bit, but I do miss the team stuff and the payday. Payday is good."
Indeed, to Bingham, football was a tough, tenacious, and most of all, respectful experience. Being in the presence of so many great football players, from Walter Payton to Jerry Rice, is what helped him to remain humble for all these years.
“Because I was surrounded by so many extremely talented people,” says Bingham, “it was easy for me to keep it in perspective."
Exceptional Endurance: A Life of Troy Dorsey
By Brian D’Ambrosio
The third time was the proverbial charm for Troy Dorsey.
On June 3, 1991, Dorsey knocked out Alfred Rangel with a single right hand at 2:37 of the first round and won the vacant International Boxing Federation Featherweight title.
In two earlier attempts in 1990, Dorsey lost a highly controversial split decision to JorgePáezand then battled to a hotly disputed draw in their rematch.
Under the sweltering Las Vegas sun, Rangel scored well with counterpunches before Dorsey blasted home a quick right that dropped him flat.
The title furnished Dorsey with the unique distinction of being the only man to hold world titles in kickboxing, karate and boxing.
“I always thought I had that type of drive and endurance to be a boxer,” says Troy Dorsey, 50. “I trained for three years with Casey Malone, beginning in 1982, before my first fight in 1985. The more I trained, the more I realized I could box also. In 1986, I was Steve Cruz’s sparring partner in Las Vegas. When he won world title (on June 23, 1986) that really inspired me. I wanted to do it. I was there when he beat Barry McGuigan (for the WBA featherweight title).”
Troy Dorsey was born and raised in Mansfield, Texas. His dad owned a Texaco station. In 1973, at the age of ten, Troy began karate. Once he started winning tournaments, he was hooked. He received his Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do (1979) and was ranked as the country’s top amateur kickboxer of the year (1980) before he even completed high school.
“I graduated from high school in 1981,” says Dorsey. “I had my first black belt in 1979. My parents, Barbara and Warren Dorsey, taught me to work hard, and they took me to church as just a little bitty boy. Some of my first memories are of going to Sunday school class.”
Troy lost just one bout as a full-contact kickboxer, a controversial split decision that he avenged six months later in a lopsided rematch. In the mid-1980s, Troy conquered his weight class. Dorsey’s nine second victory in 1982 set a world record for the quickest knockout in kickboxing history.
He has been inducted into probably every significant martial arts hall of fame: World Martial Arts Hall Of Fame; World Karate Union Hall Of Fame; Texas Martial Arts Hall Of Fame; Martial Arts Digest Hall Of Fame; Tae Kwon Do Hall of Fame.
“I had a talent for great endurance,” says Dorsey. “That, and there were a lot of people helping me, encouraging me, my parents, my wife, we married in 1986, my family, and my trainer Casey Malone. They taught me to fight the good fight. Sometimes, I question if that’s what the Lord wanted me to do. I do question that. I look back, and sometimes, I think it’s not so good. But I use the fighting as a platform to speak with youth groups and people in the community. Fighting is more than just kicking and punching, it’s about recognizing dangerous situations, and it’s about self-control, self-respect, and respect.”
As a boxer, Troy brought the core his martial arts background to the forefront: never surrender, absorb your opponent’s best shots, and never slow down. “You’ve got to continue to come,” says Dorsey. “Take the best they can give without changing your expression.”
In Dorsey’s 31-fight pro boxing career, he held the NABF Featherweight Title, IBO Super Featherweight Title and the IBF Featherweight World Championship.
Perhaps the greatest demonstration of his endurance was an outrageously-paced brawl he had with NABF Featherweight Champion Harold Rhodes, on August 10, 1989. Fight fans were treated to power punches galore until Rhodes plummeted in the closing moments of the bout. The fight, which took place in Great Falls, Montana, was designated as the USA Network’s Fight of the Year.
“Yes, the Rhodes fight in Great Falls,” says Dorsey. “Rhodes was an up and coming fighter, the number one contender. It was a slugfest, and I ended up stopping him in the tenth. I just kept digging deeper and deeper, pushing him back. Hard work beats talent. When you look at the guys I boxed, I think there are 13 or 14 world champions, I think.”
While perhaps most associated with a pair of action-packed, aggressive wars with IBF World Champion Jorge Páez, Dorsey’s spirit, endurance, steel legs, and his propensity to punch in perpetuity was never more evident than against Kevin Kelley, on February 18, 1992.
Dorsey’s dogged aggressiveness prompted Kelley, who at the time was ranked as the number one featherweight in the world, to compare his unanimous, hometown decision victory over Dorsey to “a night spent in hell.” At bout’s end, Dorsey certainly earned the respect of the supremely confident Kelley.
“I just had so much energy,” says Dorsey. “I had my third and fourth wind, and I kept on moving.”
Several of Dorsey’s later bouts were halted because he exhibited a tendency to badly cut. In his last fight, on July 11, 1998, he was stopped by Gabriel Ruelas. “Gabriel is a good friend,” says Dorsey. “We text bible verses back and forth.”
Around the time he retired, he began to take his religion and his God more seriously. Even though religion had always been a presence in his life since he was “a little bitty boy,” he started to believe in earnest and apply in earnest.
“I didn’t follow the Lord the right way until I was 35,” says Dorsey. “See, my father-in-law and my mother-in-law both drowned, and that was an awakening. I looked at my life, and I re-dedicated it in 1998. The Lord got me to stay on the right track. I follow His teaching, living a life of following Jesus.
“I feel as if I won eight world titles for a reason,” continues Dorsey. “God is always with us, he will never forsake us. He’ll never leave us. He kept opening doors for me. Now I stay focused on living a life for Jesus. It’s my free choice to stay with his word. It took me two and a half years to read the bible. He’s not dragging or forcing me, he just opened his arms.”
In 1999, the Troy Dorsey Karate School launched in Mansfield, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. A few years ago, he received a proclamation and key to his hometown; for one week in August, he enjoyed the h
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