As the lights dimmed and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” blasted throughout the Events Center just before 7:30 on Friday night, the crowd roared for Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity’s 14th annual Fight Night to begin.
The seven matches featured amateur boxers, including a number of fraternity members and two women. Groups of scantily clad ring girls, all volunteers from various UCSB sororities, danced between boxing rounds before the responsive crowd. Fight Night coordinator and PIKE philanthropy chair Art Madrigal said roughly 4,500 people attended the charity event. He said proceeds from the event – which Madrigal estimated exceed $9,000 – would be donated to the Primo Boxing Club, which runs the Say Yes to Kids Foundation in downtown Santa Barbara. The foundation offers free after school boxing training and other activities to at-risk youth. Madrigal said final tallies of attendance and revenue would be available in about a week.
PIKE alumnus Frank Debernardo emceed the event, opening it with a boxing match standard.
“Let’s get ready to rumble,” Debernardo yelled, eliciting a return shout from the crowd.
After outlining the Fight Night schedule, Debernardo asked for a moment of silence in to honor of a former PIKE president and U.S. Army Capt. Dion Burmaz who was killed in a helicopter crash in South Korea on Feb. 26.
“Tonight’s event is held in memory of Capt. Dion Burmaz, who was a former member of the UCSB ROTC program,” said Debernardo, “Dion Burmaz was also my roommate during my senior year. Please join me in a moment of silence.”
DJ Ozone sang his rendition of the national anthem, with the crowd cheering as he hit the high notes.
The night’s first matchup pitted Celso Ribera against Jason “Opie” Braun. Ribera entered the ring to the tune of Latin music, while the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” accompanied Braun’s strut. The two boxers exchanged blows until the second round when referee Don Green ended the match. Ribera won by technical knockout.
At the end of every match during the night, four ring girls from each sorority, dressed in themed costumes, mounted the platform and danced for the audience. One set of girls, dressed as lifeguards, wore red hot pants with “PIKE Guard” emblazoned on the backside. Other costumes included skimpy army fatigues, construction worker hard hats and suspenders, and black leather and chains. A few girls executed the splits and one, dressed as a gypsy, received extra applause after she did back flips between the rounds of the final match. Some audience members constantly hollered as the girls danced while others stared in silence.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Melissa Peterson, a ring girl and third-year film studies major. “We were really nervous going into it, but we just did our own thing.”
But not all attendees thought the girls’ performances were a positive contribution to Fight Night. Melissa Warter, a first-year art studio major, said their clothing and actions objectified women.
“I thought their outfits set us back 10 years in women’s rights,” Warter said.
Countering the more flamboyant women of Fight Night, Debbie Scott and Tanya Erazo faced off in the special “Ladies Match.” For three rounds Scott and Erazo exchanged blows and endured comments from audience members, screaming that it was a “girl fight.” Erazo out-boxed her opponent, winning the match.
“I feel pretty good about [winning],” Erazo said after the fight. “I obviously could have been in better condition. In the third round, I was gassed, but I can’t complain for my first bout.”
Unlike their counterparts, Brendan Lynch and Roberto Mora – both Say Yes To Kids participants – fought an exhibition match with no winner.
Jason Lebowitz, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), fought against Peter Aguilar. Members of AEPi, who sat together in a section of the bleachers, began to chant “Lebo” loudly during the match. Early in the bout, the referee almost fell to the ground after one of the boxers ran into him, but Green managed to catch the ropes and support himself. Lebowitz won after Aguilar went out in the third round with an injured knee. Lebowitz said he could have fought on.
“I feel pretty confident right now,” Lebowitz said after the match. “He threw some hard punches, but I was ready to go another round. I wish he hadn’t gone out on an injury.”
Cheering AEPi brothers engulfed Lebowitz after the match.
Like his fellow greek, Kappa Sigma member Pete Forthun bested Sean Crampton after three rounds. Forthun landed several key blows on his opponent, causing him to almost trip.
Armand Lozano and Elliot Seymour’s match was met by the most intense applause and name calling from the audience. A large section of the crowd seated directly behind Lozano’s corner booed him as he entered the stadium. One of the people jeering Lozano said they were friends of Seymour, his opponent.
The group continued to taunt Lozano throughout the match, calling him fat and yelling at him to “suck a dick.” At first Lozano ignored the rowdy bunch, but eventually exchanged some insults. After three rounds the judges awarded victory to Lozano.
Rubie Crossland-Sims, Lozano’s mother, said she attended the match to support her son. Before the match she had said she felt apprehensive, but was confident in her son because of his intense training in the past five months.
“I am so happy with the result,” said Crossland-Sims after the fight. “I did feel that the crowd acted inappropriately, though. I was not upset with the booing so much as when they pointed at him and addressed him directly.”
Seymour said he did not agree with the judges’ decision.
“This is my second year at Fight Night and I have been training real hard for this,” Seymour said. “I had a lot of people depending on me tonight, including my trainer and all my friends. I feel like I got robbed. How many clean punches did he land? How many counter swings did he get? You can quote me on the record right here: Bullshit.”
Fight Night’s Main Event pitted PIKE brother Kevin Barger against an opponent 50 pounds heavier than he. Most crowd members stood up to cheer Barger and jeer his adversary, Nick Orloff. After two rounds of ducking and flying fists, Orloff rested against a corner and forfeited the match. Judges and fans alike lauded the triumphant Barger.
“[Barger] was outweighed by 50 pounds,” said David Humphrey, one of the three ringside judges. “It just goes to show that you don’t have to be big, you just have to be smart.”
After the crowd had dissipated and crews began the clean up effort, Madrigal said he was pleased with the night.
“I think it went really well,” said Madrigal. “The fights were solid and the crowd got into it. I think it was one of the best Fight Nights we have had. It also looked like the biggest turnout we have ever had. I think we may have brought in a lot more money for Say Yes To Kids, especially since we raised the ticket prices this year. One thing I would like to see next year is more greek participation in the fights, because it draws a lot more people and it is always more exciting when people you know are in the ring.”
According to Madrigal, police made six arrests for public intoxication during the event. But otherwise, Fight Night saw no significant disturbances, he said.
Joe Pommier, boxing coach for Say Yes To Kids, said Fight Night had a great turnout and he hopes it will therefore make good profit for the charity.
“Some people come to see the ring girls,” he said. “But I come for the fight.”