Gary Shaw remembers Kimbo Slice
The visage told a story, one that came with a warning label, because he had the look of someone who was the last person you wished to be standing in front of you if you owed a neighborhood guy some money, or what have you…
His eyes blazed; his brow narrowed and spoke, suggesting this person would pounce on you and tear you up, limbless, if he so desired.
In a dark alley, you would pray he stood with you, you thought to yourself when first sizing him up, because God help you if he were against you.
You saw Kimbo Slice on a magazine cover, or if you saw him out and about and had no idea who he was, you knew he was somebody, with a past, with a history, that surely included some nature of violence.
The YouTube Sensation, born Kevin Ferguson and christened “Kimbo Slice,” blew up on social media, with peer-to-peer sharing of his backyard fight videos, and he parlayed that homegrown method of publicity generation into a midlife vocational uptick that made him one of the best-known fighters of the late-2000s.
Ferguson passed away on Monday night and, indeed, his past did include “violence” but masses of admirers will know it was basically all of the structured variety. Slice was filmed competing in decidedly unsanctioned backyard fights in Miami but his look and aura and the backing of a right hand man named “Icey Mike,” transitioned into organized cage fighting and also the boxing ring.
Slice, a Florida resident born in the Bahamas, was 42; he died in a Florida of a cause still unspecified.
His last ring foray had been in a cage, on a Bellator show. It was a ragged outing. Slice (5-2, 1 no-contest in MMA; 7-0, 6 knockouts in pro boxing) looked gassed soon out of the gate against fellow street scrapper Dada 5000 but he had a tablespoon more of gas in his tank and stopped Dada. A positive PED reading on Slice changed the finish to a no-contest.
More fights were planned but instead, we will see a premature burial of a man who leaves behind testimonials from persons who knew him best, suggesting he was not how he looked.
When asked to confirm or – more hopefully – deny the news whipping around the internet late Monday, that Kimbo had expired, Icey Mike Imber said, “Unfortunately, yes. I lost my brother today.”
Boxing promoter Gary Shaw helps explain. The New Jersey resident had a stint running an MMA promotion, Elite XC, and Slice’s involvement helped heap media attention on its events in 2007 and 2008.
“Kimbo absolutely was a friend. And inside the cage and ring and outside, he was a totally different person,” Shaw said. “We were a family, not a team.” He said Slice was more than lucky to have a pal like Icey Mike because “Everyone should have one friend like that in their life and (Imber) didn’t take one dime from him and (Slice) protected him.”
Shaw recalled taking Slice, who tried out pure pugilism after a UFC stint, to a boxing match in January 2013 in Australia. As per usual, he’d treat Shaw like he was the big shot, and bodyguard him, even give him an escort to the lavatory. “He was the guy you wanted to hang around with, you knew no one would eff with you! He was one of the first guys (with whom) I didn’t care about the money. I didn’t get paid a dime from the Australia event.
“And he was a good family man, a sweet guy.”
Slice was a more than decent athlete: he played football at University of Miami but he came to organized combat a bit late. His knees didn’t cooperate and he was sometimes unfocused in his conditioning and training sessions. If he’d come to boxing earlier, with those heavy hands, and had more time to refine his techniques and his willpower to train to best practices…who knows how far he could have come?
“But he had a helluva run,” said Shaw. “And he was a sweet guy.”
To an everyman to the end, rest in peace, Kimbo. THE RING offers its sincerest condolences to Kimbo Slice’s family and friends.