By 6:30 p.m., the line had worked its way from the Thunderdome entrance to the Pardall tunnel. Ring girls dressed in gold bikini tops, mini gold-striped boxing shorts and high heels patiently waited beside the red, white and blue colored boxing ring.
But about 45 minutes later, any chance of peace and quiet last Friday night was dispelled by Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity alumnus Frank Debernardo as he shouted, “Let’s get ready to rumble,” to kick off the 15th Annual PIKE Fight Night.
Drawing roughly 4,350 people, mostly students, the event raised more than $8,000 for the local Say Yes to Kids Foundation, said PIKE President and Fight Night Coordinator Art Madrigal, a third-year law & society major. In addition to seven boxing matches and a main event featuring PIKE’s returning champion, the night brought with it blaring theme songs, cheering fans and the infamous Fight Night ring girls, who carried signs with phrases like “PIKE, So Hot Right Now” and “Get a Knockout.”
After getting past the heavy security posted at entrance doors, audience members sat amongst their friends, fellow classmates and, for some, greek brothers and sisters. They were greeted with the opening – and shortest – fight between Dukes Boxing and Fitness fighter Andrew Schulz and Mathis Riley from the Chilla Vista student organization. Schulz surreptitiously landed punches to Riley’s head, knocking him down multiple times and bringing the fight to a close not long after it had begun.
A referee was always in the ring with the fighters, but regardless of his presence, Abi Cortes of Dukes Boxing and Fitness and PIKE member Jason Crowley of State Street Boxing Club fought viciously during the fifth match. At one point, the fight had to be suspended for Crowley to fix his headgear, which had gone astray after several blows to the head. Crowley eventually bested Cortes, but many displeased members of the audience simply jeered.
In between the brawling and “boos,” there was no shortage of dancing and catcalls, as the women of Fight Night, chauffeured to the event in limousines, strutted in the ring wearing high heels during breaks in the fighting. On the girls’ first appearance, the crowd chanted, “Sexy girls.”
This year, however, the traditionally scanty attire worn by the ring girls was less revealing than those of past Fight Nights, as all of the girls sported outfits consisting of gold bikini tops and mini boxing shorts that had been approved by the Office of Student Life.
Toward the end of the night, the main event pitted Alex Jeppson from “the streets of Isla Vista” against several-time Fight Night champion and PIKE member Kevin Barger. Jeppson managed to land a few key punches early on, and Barger fell in the second round, but Barger was able to obtain the upper hand by round three. Many in the audience had already left their seats by the time Barger was declared the winner at about 9 p.m., but his fellow PIKE members stayed in their section to applaud his victory.
Organizers and supporters of the event said the whole night went well, and might have had the largest crowd Fight Night has ever seen. Concerning the event’s security, Lt. Cathy Farley of the UC Police Dept. said she thought almost everything went smoothly.
“There were two arrests for public intoxication outside the venue before they got in,” Farley said.
Jean Pommier, 10-year program director for the Say Yes to Kids Foundation, said she enjoyed the event. The foundation, which is located in downtown Santa Barbara, offers free after school boxing training and other activities to at-risk youth.
“I think it went really well,” Pommier said. “And I was pleased that the girls toned down a bit, because I want everyone to have a good time.”