You have to hand it to Kimbo Slice. In the recent history of professional sports, you’d be hard-pressed to find another athlete who has done so much with so little.
Anybody who follows the fight game knows I absolutely mean that as a compliment. Even in combat sports, which -- let’s face it -- are kind of a catch-all for misfits and ne’er-do-wells, Slice has managed to cultivate a unique brand of fame for himself. He is without a doubt the most famous bad fighter in the world.
The first two acts of Slice’s public life are already well documented: First as a street brawler who became a star by beating up bums in backyards and back alleys (and even a boat salvage yard), then as an ultimately failed mixed martial artist who was game, but too one-dimensional and long in the tooth to catch up with the actual professionals.
By now, Slice should be a known (and disappointing) commodity to fight fans. Yet on Aug. 13, the 37-year-old slugger whose real name is Kevin Ferguson begins a haphazard third act as he makes his professional boxing debut at something called the Buffalo Run Casino in a town called Miami, Okla., against an 0-1 opponent named James Wade.
In your face, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In itself, a one-off boxing match in a tiny casino at a minuscule dot on the map wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, but it’s clear that Slice’s longtime promoters, Gary and Jared Shaw, have bigger plans. Jared Shaw already did his best to sucker NFL lineman Ray Edwards into a bout with Slice after Edwards announced he’d pursue boxing during the football lockout. That didn’t happen, but Shaw is still talking Slice up as an “injection into the heavyweight division” and promising he’ll bring more excitement to his bouts than the recent high-profile stinker between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye.
The ridiculousness of comparing Slice to two established heavyweight titlists aside, the truth is that the Shaws’ faith is probably well justified. So long as Slice proves even a mediocre pro boxer capable of dispatching the James Wades of the world, someone will no doubt scoop him up and put him on pay-per-view.
Why? Because people will watch.
More than anything, the most amazing thing about Slice’s improbable career as a professional fighter is his seemingly inexhaustible marketability. His true genius lies not in being particularly good, but just being Kimbo Slice.
Fans know the score. We all saw Slice get knocked out in 14 seconds by Seth Petruzelli at the final EliteXC show. We saw him get bullied by Roy Nelson on “The Ultimate Fighter,” and then get drummed out of MMA for good after a second-round TKO at the hands of Matt Mitrione during his second official UFC fight. We also know his boxing career likely isn’t going anywhere, for the simple fact that if he was as good a boxer as the Shaws say he is, he never would have spent three awkward years in MMA in the first place.
We know all this, but some of us will tune in anyway. Six month from now, we might even plunk down $30-50 to see Slice fight some middling heavyweight we sort of remember from the 1990s. It won’t matter if he wins or loses. It won’t matter if it’s a good fight. The only thing that’ll matter is that it will draw a little money, and that fact alone already makes Slice a success.