Kenneth Sims Jr. forges on in memory of fallen friend
By Joseph Santoliquito
He can still hear it. That infectious, bellowing laugh-box laugh that had a tower crane-like lure that tugged you toward him. Kenneth Sims Jr. can’t get the sound out of his head. It’s why Sims is still prone to waking up early in the morning, sitting in bed and reaching out into the darkness for something—for someone—that isn’t there anymore. It always seems to be around the same time, too, when the pings from text messages sounded like an alarm clock over a month ago.
It strikes Sims sporadically, jostling his senses, pushing him from a deep sleep. He’ll begin weeping again, trying to make sense of it all.
Sims was very close to fellow Chicago fighter Ed Brown, an aspiring 25-year-old welterweight with a pristine 20-0 record and 16 knockouts. Brown and Sims planned to rule the boxing world, injecting some much needed energy into the sagging Chicago fight game. The “Bossman,” Sims, and his buddy, “Bad Boy.” They were inseparable since they were barely able to put boxing gloves on.
In 2016, there were 762 murders in Chicago, the city’s deadliest year in almost two decades. Ed Brown couldn’t escape. He was one of them. A senseless statistic in a senseless chaotic spree that no one will soon forget. Certainly not Sims, who referred to Brown as “a blood brother” before he was gunned down sitting in his car on Saturday morning, December 3, and pronounced dead from a gunshot wound to the head on Sunday, December 4.
Since then, Sims has been trying to cope with the loss of his friend.
He’s hoping this Friday night’s fight on Showtime’s “ShoBox” series from the Bally’s Event Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, will have a cathartic effect. Sims (10-0, 3 KOs) will be fighting for the first time since Brown was killed. He’ll be taking on Emmanuel Robles (15-1-1, 5 KOs) in the first televised fight on the card.
But his fight has been ongoing ever since that morning a deluge of messages flooded his phone, asking if he had heard about “Ed being shot.”
“This last month has been hard,” Sims admitted. “It’s hard thinking about it, because every time I do I start crying. Just a couple of nights ago it hit me again around 1 in the morning. We were always together. I mean right now at this time, we’d always be on the phone with each other, talking each other up if he had a fight or I had a fight coming up.
“It bothers me. It will always bother me. I see pictures of Ed all over my house. I called Ed my brother. I was 9 and he was 11 or 12 when we first met. I introduced him as my ‘big brother.’”
They first met at a junior Olympic tournament in 2004. Brown had been fighting for a few years before Sims began boxing. By 2005, Brown traveled with Sims and his family to a regional Silver Gloves tournament in Nebraska. They quickly meshed. Sims liked the way Brown incessantly talked and didn’t take many things seriously outside of the ring, while Sims was the polar opposite, someone more prone to easing into a room and feeling out the milieu before finding a comfort zone.
Brown would stay with Sims for weeks at a time before a tournament. The rare times when they weren’t on the same amateur card together, or in each other’s corners, they would constantly text one another, offering encouragement, or Brown would drop a line that he knew would alleviate any anxiety Sims may have had before a fight.
According to Chicago police, homicides in 2016 increased by 58 percent from 2015. The rise came as the number of shootings jumped by 47 percent.
Ed Brown became one of those unfortunate stats the morning of Saturday, December 3, 2016.
“I woke up to it, after getting four or five text messages on my phone,” Sims recalled. “I checked them out and looked at Facebook. It didn’t really hit me, because Ed had been shot three times before and survived. It was like he was Superman. Like bullets couldn’t hurt him. It was 2, 3 in the morning I had to go to the bathroom and I saw my cell phone blowing up right there.
“At first, I was looking at everything and it didn’t seem real. In June, one of my best friends was killed, too. I’m glad 2016 is over, because I didn’t get a break. Boxing has helped me get through this. It’s been my motivation. It makes me work harder and now I do everything for Ed. I’m getting better. I still have my moments, but I get to take my frustrations out on the heavy bag.”
In Sims’ last bout, he and Brown were on the same card for the first time as pros, on November 11, 2016, in Philadelphia. Brown was the main event, fighting as a junior welterweightweight and winning an eight-round unanimous decision, while Sims fought as a welterweight and won by six-round unanimous decision.
Sims doesn’t know if the most difficult time is ahead.
“I have to focus on this fight coming up, and it’s helpful,” Sims said. “My boxing uniform will have a tribute to Ed on my boxing trunks and every time I get a call, his face is my screen saver on my phone, so every time I talk to someone I see him. I’m dedicating the fight to him.
“But right now, we have a crisis in Chicago. There were over 700 people killed in Chicago, including my friend. The frustrating part is that I live in Chicago and I’m very proud of this city and how great this city is. I live here and people think this is a terrible to place to live and it isn’t. I have no way of solving all the killing that’s going on, but I want to make sure people know Chicago isn’t the worst place in the world.”
Sims says he doesn’t know much about Robles, other than he’s a southpaw. Sims saw him fight on TV once, but Sims possesses the confidence he can handle anything the shorter Robles brings.
Sims can still hear his buddy’s laugh. He can still hear him yelling out, “Hey Shorty!”
And he knows if he keeps winning, the memory of Ed Brown keeps living.