Tunica Tussle 

Bar brawlers and amateur boxers fight for cash at casino.

On a recent Friday evening, ring girls lead a parade of "Tough Man" fighters around the ring at Sam's Town Casino. Several of the fighters have beer bellies and man boobs. Some of them are covered in carpets of chest and back hair.

Whether these competitors know how to box or not is uncertain.

"If you came here thinking you're going to see jabs and uppercuts, you know, great boxing skills, then you came to the wrong place," Tough Man president Stephen Coppler tells a packed Sam's Town River Entertainment Center before the quarterfinalists take the ring.

Tough Man has developed a cult following. Roughly 50 times a year, the tournament draws men and women to fight in three one-minute rounds. When the bell sounds, they rush into a frenzy of fist-pounding, pushing, punching, and, occasionally, running away.

Of the 44 heavyweight and light heavyweight competitors in the two-day event last weekend, only a small number have formal boxing training. The rest are fight hobbyists looking to knock heads and win a grand while they're at it.

Mike Lane, a 28-year-old FedEx dock worker, becomes the weekend's heavyweight winner. He boxed as a teenager and won his last Tough Man competition in Corinth, Mississippi, nine months ago. Following his victory Saturday night, he tells friends how he wanted to fight certain opponents because the majority of his weight class were hobbyists who thought being big and tough were enough to win.

"Knowing my skill level, not to be arrogant, I knew I could win this," he said after defeating a 23-year-old from Huron, Tennessee. "Most of these guys walk in trying to make money."

Guess his opponents should have stuck to the slots.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Eyes on You

      Court says Memphis’ police surveillance violated consent decree.

Blogs

Music Blog

Jose Feliciano Plays Unannounced Memphis Gig

Hungry Memphis

Welcome back, Restaurant Iris!

Music Blog

Gillian Welch Wows GPAC

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Alpha

Intermission Impossible

In Praise of "Love and Murder" at Playhouse on the Square

News Blog

MATA Looks to Hire More Trolley Operators

Music Blog

Listen Up: Cruelty of the Heavens

News Blog

VIDEO: SUV Driver Swerves Into Cyclists

Intermission Impossible

Ostranders to Honor Memphis Performers Who Died During 2017-18 Season

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Yann Ranaivo

  • Groove Latin-style

    • Feb 7, 2008
  • Another Wild Ride

    While the city waits on Bass Pro, the Ericson Group asks council to approve "Pyramid Harbor" project.
    • Jan 31, 2008
  • Change to the Charter

    Election commission proposes staggered terms for council members.
    • Jan 24, 2008
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation