Whether it is fair or not, some names just become synonymous with certain sports. In combat sports it seems as if both promoters and fans need these names in order to drum up interest in events. For example, in boxing the Mohammed Ali void was filled by Mike Tyson, and as far as MMA goes Ken Shamrock has been the torch bearer. Despite the fact that younger and more exciting stars emerge, these men remain in their sport’s spotlight well beyond their athletic prime.
Stars in combat sports get old, that is just a fact of life. As their talents and physical abilities wane, promoters’ interest in featuring the same names remains. Since the fighters are not what they once were, they are matched against continually lower and lower levels of competition.
This weekend Ken Shamrock’s own promotion, Ken Shamrock Productions, has lined him up a fight with the 6’8” 400 lbs Ross Clifton, whose career record is only 6-8. Interestingly enough, this eerily mirrors the last days of Mike Tyson’s professional boxing career.
After a failed last shot at glory against then heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson’s handlers continued to look for fights to feed off of the fighter’s surprisingly still high popularity. A flash knockout win and an unexpected knockout loss followed. Many people wondered if the once dominant boxer was now done.
Then after almost a year off, Tyson was back, and it was announced that he would face 6’6” 280 lbs Irishman Kevin McBride in our nation’s capitol. ESPN and other major media outlets considered the fight to be a joke. McBride was not a quality opponent, and was just being trotted out to give Tyson a chance to shine.
However, on fight night McBride used his size to damage Tyson in the clinch, and the former Kid Dynamite refused to come out for the seventh round. Tyson has not fought professionally since.
Shamrock’s path to this fight has been similar to Tyson’s. After two failed chances against his nemesis Tito Ortiz, Shamrock was set up with Robert Berry. Pro Elite had just signed the UFC 1 veteran to a contract, and was looking to build him back up so he could be parlayed into big time match ups. Surprisingly, Berry was able to stop Shamrock in the first round.
Pro Elite still thought Shamrock was ready for the spotlight and matched him against the youtube sensation Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, but the fight never materialized due to a laceration above Shamrock’s eye.
Now, the so called “World’s Most Dangerous Man” is set to face Ross Clifton. In many ways this fight is much more of a chance for Clifton than Shamrock. Like McBride, his size and perceived inability to win is what made him attractive to promoters, but a fight is still a fight. If Clifton is able to pull this fight out he will become a part of MMA history even if he doesn’t ever win another fight. Kevin McBride hasn’t returned to the spotlight since his upset, but boxing fans will never forget the night in D.C. when the tall Irishman put down a legend.
Ken Shamrock will fight Ross Clifton at WAR GODS: VALENTINE’S EVE MASSACRE on Feb. 13 in Fresno, California.
By: Richard Mann