There was plenty of trash talk and bluster, which seemed to be just what a boxing-hungry crowd at the Hard Rock Café was looking for Friday morning in advance of the “Bicentennial Beatdown” on May 17.
“It’s momentum, momentum, momentum,” said Ron Redwing of the Red Wing Group. “We appreciate the support of Mayor Strickland, the Memphis City Council and just everyone who has welcomed professional boxing back to our wonderful city.
“This is going to be the start of something big. Memphis native Justin Timberlake wants to bring sexy back. Well, we want to bring boxing back.”
The Bicentennial Beatdown is a professional boxing spectacle slated for the Agricenter International, 7777 Walnut Grove Rd. Retired champ Floyd “Money” Mayweather is promoting the affair, along with Lank the King and Redwing, both native Memphians. Mayweather attended a private meet-and-greet in Downtown Memphis Friday evening.
“I want to thank God for letting me come back home to Memphis. We wanted to be a part of the bicentennial celebration,” said Lank the King. “We wanted that ‘Memphis in May’ feel. Memphis has always been a fight town. Memphis loves professional boxing, and we are thrilled to bring these young boxing professionals.
Memphis in May this year will forgo its annual salute to a foreign country and instead mark the city’s 200th birthday.
Highlighting the high-energy press conference were remarks by the fighters headlining the matches. The center spotlight easily fell on LaDarius “Memphis” Miller, a graduate from Melrose High School, where his name is legendary.
“I want to thank everybody for taking the time to come out and support me,” said Miller. “We really appreciate it. I’m from Orange Mound. I’ve been boxing all my life.
On May 17th, I’m going to knock somebody out. I want them carried out on a stretcher. I’m going to be the next world champion from Memphis.”
Lank, who acted as the emcee, directed a plea to Miller as the determined-to-be champ took his seat.
“LaDarius, please let the fight go at least three rounds before you knock him out,” he said, explaining that in a recent bout in Las Vegas venue LaDarius knocked out his opponent in the first round.
I’m not paid for overtime,” Miller said. “I can’t do it.”
It was bombast at its best.
“I believe in my city, and I know my city believes in me,” Miller concluded. “I will be bringing the world championship back to the city soon.”
Another standout was Ava Knight, a short petite boxer with model-good looks and plenty of tough talk.
In a brief interview, Knight said she got into boxing “quite by accident.”
“I was a good kid. I didn’t’ fight or anything. I was into playing instruments, kind of a nerd, you know? But I stepped into the gym, and I loved it,” she said.
“It was what I have always wanted, my passion. People tell me not to let anyone hit me ‘in that beautiful face,’ but I can take it.”
Knight, a Northern California native who now resides in Las Vegas, is a six-time Female World Boxing Champion in her weight division.
Another local-area boxer, Donald “Bulldog” Ward, hails from West Memphis.
“I won my fight the last time I was here,” said Ward. And this time, you know I can’t play with it. I’m like LaDarius. I’m going to knock somebody out.”
The Bicentennial Beatdown will be the first time Miller fights in his hometown.
“That boy was always in a fight,” said King Siddiq, Miller’s father. “That’s just why he went into boxing. He was always in a fight at school or on the street. But all that trash talking, he must have gotten that from me.”
Following the press conference, the young boxers and entourage were headed over to Melrose High School, Miller’s alma mater.
“We want kids to know that if they dream big and believe in themselves and their abilities, there is nothing they cannot achieve,” said Redwing. “We want these young fighters to give our students a positive uplifting word.”
Tickets officially went on sale Friday. For ticket reservations and more information, call the Agricenter International box office at 901-757-7777, or visit www.agricenter.org.