Forgotten Legends: Clifford Etienne

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By: Steve Gallegos

In the early 2000’s, American fight fans were searching for the next great heavyweight. Lennox Lewis was in his reign as the universally recognized “Undisputed” heavyweight champion and American fight fans adopted Lewis as one of their own. However they needed a successor and they thought they were getting it in CliffordThe Black RhinoEtienne.

Etienne was a good sized, well built heavyweight that had good power in both hands and he provided fireworks anytime he stepped into the ring. Etienne was born and raised in Lafayette, LA. At age 18, Etienne was arrested and charged with Armed Robbery in which he received a 40 year prison sentence. It was in prison that he took up the sport of boxing and would compile a prison record of 30-0. Etienne was released from prison after 10 years and would turn pro in 1998, winning his first 15 bouts, 11 by KO.

2000 would be his breakout year as he would gain national exposure and TV time. He met fellow unbeaten heavyweight and future heavyweight champion Lamon Brewster on 05/06/00 in Pittsburgh, PA. It was the first bout on HBO’s new boxing series “KO Nation”. Etienne shined well as he dominated Brewster in exciting fashion en route to a 10 round unanimous decision. After scoring a third round KO over Joey Guy the next month in Baton Rogue, LA, Etienne would return to “KO Nation” in September as he scored an impressive three round KO over Clifford Couser. He would close out 2000 on a high note as he appeared on the Lennox Lewis vs David Tua Pay Per View undercard.

He would face former U.S. Olympian and unbeaten heavyweight Laurence Clay-Bey. It was a back and forth slugfest from the opening bell and it would steal the show that night in Las Vegas. The end result would be a 10 round unanimous decision win for Etienne. Etienne was at the top of his game and it appeared he was on his way to becoming the next heavyweight champion. He would sign a big contract with Showtime Networks and was scheduled to make his first appearance on the network in early 2001. Etienne’s career was moving along very fast, however it was about to hit a major roadblock.

He met Fres Oquendo on 03/23/01 in Las Vegas, NV. The fight was supposed to be another showcase for Etienne, however he was destroyed in eight rounds in which Oquendo dropped him a total of seven times. It was a huge setback for Etienne, however he would bounce back. He would go 5-1-1 with four KO’s over the next year. This would put him in line for a big money fight against Mike Tyson.

The fight was scheduled for 02/22/03 at the Pyramid in Memphis, TN. Tyson would pull out of the bout just days before the scheduled match, however he would arrive in Memphis and would change his mind, putting the fight back on. Most of Etienne’s camp had left Memphis after Tyson had pulled out and Clifford wasn’t sure whether or not he should fight. At the last minute, Etienne decided to go through with the bout and the fight with Tyson was on.

Inside the ring, Tyson would knockout Etienne with a right hand in only 49 seconds of the first round. It was another major setback for Etienne and his stock would drop tremendously after this fight. He continued to fight over the next two years, going 5-2-1 with three KO’s. His troubles outside the ring however would once again get the better of him.

In 2005, Etienne was arrested on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder of a police officer. He would be sentenced to 105 years in prison without the possibility of parole. He remains incarcerated in Lousiana. His record as a professional stands at 29-4-2 with 20 KO’s. Did his career take off too fast, becoming too much to handle? Could his career inside the ring have been more successful had he stayed out of trouble outside the ring? Another case of “What If”.
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Jessie Reid: “We’re Coming Well-Prepared and Ready to Bust Washington’s Heart.”

Hall of Fame Trainer Jessie Reid has some surprising words about Al Haymon-managed heavyweight prospect Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington (11-0, 8 KOs).

Reid is serving as co-trainer (along with Aaron Navarro) for 6′ 8″ heavyweight Skipp “Strictly Business” Scott (16-1, 10 KOs) in his upcoming fight against Washington in the 10-round co-main event on Thursday, April 3, when Golden Boy Live! presents “Night Of The Heavyweights,” a tripleheader of heavyweight action on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes, from the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.

“I think he can be outhustled and is somebody we can bang around. He tries to be cute, but he’s not a cutie. Honestly, he strikes me as more of a sparring partner,” said Reid. “If you come in not properly prepared, he can outfight you, but we’re coming in very well-prepared and ready to take it to him and bust his heart.”

Reid, who has handled the careers of such greats as Roger Mayweather, Lamon Brewster, Johnny Tapia, Orlando Canizales, Reggie Johnson and Bruce Curry among the 23 World Champions and over 40 world-rated boxers, says he likes what he sees from Scott.

“I’ve been watching Skipp Scott and he hasn’t lost a fight in seven years. He’s a very big, tough guy. He’s intimidating and he can back it up. You knock him down, he gets back up and I like that. He’s a guy with tons of desire and heart.”

Reid says Scott’s style is perfect for his legendary style of coaching.

“Skipp is a fighter, not a boxer. I can help him with his boxing skills when he needs them, but fighters win by fighting. Boxers use their abilities for defensive moves and they’re very boring at times. I’d rather see somebody who has the boxing skills when they need them, but also be a real finisher with killer instinct. When I look at Skipp Scott, that’s what I see he could be. I’ve worked with plenty of great boxers, but I’m the kind of guy who is a motivator for punchers. I’m excited. Skipp is a real fighter with real heart and I know I can help him.”

In the 10-round main event that night, unbeaten Cuban Luis Ortiz will take on long-time top contender and world-title challenger Monte Barrett and, in the televised opener, 2012 U.S. Olympian Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale will face veteran Nagy Aguilera.

The Hunt for Wladimir Klitschko is on: Helenius and Pulev Ranked #1

Exciting news for Robert Helenius (18-0, 11 KOs) and Kubrat Pulev (17-0, 9
KOs). Both top heavyweight contenders currently hold the number one spot in
their respective rankings.

After beating former world champions Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter and
Siarhei Liakhovich, the WBO (World Boxing Organization) already instated
Helenius as their number one fighter back in September of last year. However, after the fight for the European Championship against Dereck Chisora in December 2011, the Finn had to take a longer break due to a serious shoulder injury. On November 10, Helenius gave his successful comeback in Helsinki. After ten rounds, the “Nordic Nightmare” won a unanimous points decision against Sherman “The Tank” Williams – the WBO’s previous number ten. In their latest Rankings, 28-year-old Helenius is back as the number one ranked boxer.

Kubrat Pulev has also been enjoying some very successful months. The prodigy of coach Otto Ramin first laced his gloves as a professional back in
September of 2009. In his debut fight as a pro, he beat Romanian Florian Benche on points. Since then, the 31-year-old has won every single one of his 17 fights and boasts a perfect record. The big break came this year after beating Alexander Dimitrenko to claim the European Championship on Mai 5 in Erfurt, Germany. Another victory followed on September 29, when the
Bulgarian took on the 140-Kilo colossus Alexander Ustinov in Hamburg. Hence,
the move up to first place of the official IBF (International Boxing Federation) rankings was just a matter of time.

The current WBO and IBF Champion is Wladimir Klitschko. The Ukrainian also
holds the WBA (World Boxing Association) Super Champion status. The regular WBA Champion is Alexander Povetkin (25-0, 17 Kos), who is signed to Team Sauerland just like Helenius and Pulev. “The hunt for Wladimir Klitschko is
on. First, he will have to face mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin. Once that fight has happened, we will see if Klitschko is still the champion,” said a confident Kalle Sauerland. “We already have one heavyweight world champion in Povetkin. With Robert Helenius and Kubrat Pulev we have two more fighters who capable of taking the belts of Klitschko. Added to that, we also have 24-year-old heavyweight hopeful Edmund Gerber in our ranks. But before we can start thinking of anything
else, Klitschko has to face Povetkin.”