By Doug Halberstadt
When the evening began at 7:30, he was a 53-year-old retired professional kickboxer. Less than two hours later, he was the new Cage Concepts Super Heavyweight Champion. Thatâ€™s how last Saturday night played out for former Roscoe resident â€śMeanâ€ť Mike LaBree.
It wasnâ€™t easy, however. Standing in LaBreeâ€™s way was his opponent, Rick McGraw, a 6-feet, 7-inch southern Illinois prison guard weighing 261 pounds. McGraw brought a 21-3 professional record into the ring. As McGraw stood in his corner awaiting LaBreeâ€™s arrival, he dwarfed his corner men and maintained a very intimidating presence.
“No Worries”—thatâ€™s the accompanying music that played as LaBree made his way to the ring. The reggae song proclaimed, “Everythingâ€™s gonna be all right.” It proved to be prophetic.
Despite being rocked by multiple solid kicks and a pair of punishing right crosses in the first round. The smaller LaBree seemed determined not to let the larger McGraw realize any damage had been done.
Labree came out fresh and strong when the bell rang for the second round. Maintaining mostly a defensive posture, LaBree ducked and evaded McGraw long enough into the round that he appeared to tire out the big man. Seeming winded, McGraw caught a LaBree punch squarely in the face and he went down to one knee on the canvas.
After receiving the mandatory eight count from referee Al Wickers, McGraw failed to rise to his feet and said he was unable to continue. The fight was stopped and LaBree was once again a champion. He improved his professional record to 51-3. Heâ€™s knocked out his opponent in 47 of those wins.
During his in ring post fight interview LaBree declared, â€śYouâ€™ve seen my last kick boxing fight.â€ť He then jokingly hinted he still might not be too old for boxing.
In other action on â€śThe Rumble Invades Beloitâ€ť card, amateur kickboxer Chris Peters, Rockford, won the $500 prize for the nine man â€śPut Up or Shut Upâ€ť tournament. Freeport fighter Tony Leitzen knocked out his brother Ricky Leitzen who traveled all the way from Las Vegas to try and settle the family feud.
The final fight of the night was like watching a second main event. Andrew Navickis, of Machesney Park, survived a tough fight with Springfieldâ€™s Louis Dewerdt. The two traded fierce punches and kicks for five rounds before Navickis had his hand raised in victory.
From the March 5-11, 2014 print edition