Fight fans attending Thursday Night at the Fights get a chance to root for a wide array of characters in the ring, whether it's an experienced pugilist adding to an impressive win total in the main event or a couple of mixed-martial-arts rookies fumbling through the night's opening match.
There was no mistaking the crowd favorites Thursday at the Egan Center, where a ring girl turned fighter for a night was named fighter of the night and a gray-haired 53-year-old boxer battled a feisty 21-year-old to a split decision behind the night's loudest cheers.
Samantha Theisen, 24, started working as a ring girl at the fights this season after getting a phone call from a friend in ring-girl management who was looking for some pretty faces. Theisen, a 2006 South High graduate and former high school wrestler, thought about entering the ring in athletic shoes long before she entered it in heels. With Thursday Night at the Fight's 24th season about to a close with next week's state championships, Theisen decided to give it a shot.
"I definitely like the ring girl aspect far more," Theisen said. "I like being smiley and happy the whole time."
Theisen possessed more of a snarl as she elicited roars from the crowd with early takedowns of Jacina Seawood in an MMA fight known as Ground and Pound. She defeated Seawood by unanimous decision in three rounds, unleashing some vicious punches to Seawood's head when the two were on the mat.
"The key to getting the win was my takedowns," Theisen said. "She didn't have a ground game and that's not what she was going for. Standing up and trying to box with her is not my game."
After Theisen dominated the first round, the two stood toe-to-toe through a stretch in the second and Seawood managed to land some big blows to Theisen's head before the match reverted primarily to the mat.
"I took a couple of different shots, on both sides of my face," Theisen said. "She has a hard hit."
Theisen plans to retire undefeated, primarily because she suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that causes pain in the neck and shoulder area, and numbness in the hands and fingers, brought on by repetitive upper-body movements.
"In the second round, I couldn't feel my whole right arm," Theisen said. "I have an extra rib on my left side, cuts off all my nerve endings."
Heaps thrills crowd
Anchorage's Ken Heaps was all smiles prior to starting his third career boxing match, but the 53-year-old was a little nervous about taking on a 21-year-old opponent making his boxing debut.
"You're a little scared you're gonna get your butt kicked," said the 165-pound Heaps, who won his two previous bouts, but fell to Cameron Combs (163 pounds) by split decision in three rounds Thursday.
Both fighters hit the mat on numerous occasions during a spirited fight that included some rapid-fire punching. Heaps fell almost entirely out of the ring during the final seconds of the first round when he was pushed backward by Combs and appeared to trip under the ropes.
Between rounds, when fight promoter Jim Patton asked for the crowd to cheer the fighter it thought was winning, there was no doubt who spectators were backing. Faint clapping for Combs gave way to enthusiastic eruption for Heaps.
"I got all them fans, 'cause they like the old guy," Heaps said. "I inspire a lot of guys that think they need to get in shape. They think that maybe they're gonna do it, now."
Heaps doesn't encourage or discourage anyone looking to fight, but he does advise any who contemplates it to be in top shape. Heaps has been training since January and thoroughly enjoying the process. Suffering his first loss was a bummer, he said, but all part of a boxing education.
"I didn't know how to deal with him," Heaps said of Combs. "I needed another half round and I woulda had him, because I was starting to figure him out. He was a tough kid."
Combs came into his first fight fired up and said he had even done some pre-fight trash talking about how bad he was going to whip his older opponent, even though he didn't have any idea who Heaps was.
"Just cause the guy got gray hair doesn't mean he don't know what to do," Combs said. "He could be just some old-timer looking for a fight, or he could be a guy whose been doing this for 20 some-odd years. I was expecting them to say he was some old light-weight division champion or something like that."
Thursday Night at the Fights
Kevin Felber def. Ted Livingston by three-round decision; Adam Lary def. Amos Doss by second-round TKO; Cameron Combs def. Ken Heaps by three-round decision; Samantha Theisen def. Jacinta Seawood by three-round decision; Gabriel Rivera def. Mauola Fasio by three-round decision; Patrick Cordova def. Tommy McMichael by three-round decision; Jesse Soloman def. Hampton Miller by three-round decision.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS