Kevin Ferguson, A.K.A. Kimbo Slice, couldn't quite hack it in Mixed Martial Arts even with the best trainers. His best performances were few and far between against fighters who weren't really formidable foes. The foray into MMA was looked upon as more of a publicity stunt than a meaningful career by many fans. Though he blazed through opponents in backyard brawls that went viral on YouTube, he did not fare so well in the cage.

Slice also suffered from a bad knee, exposed by his appearance on the UFC reality Show "The Ultimate Fighter." The outing of his nagging injury led opponents to target him with incessant leg kicks after the show aired and he officially entered the UFC ranks. As an MMA fighter Slice was so intense with his stand-up game that the first man to beat him in the cage was told before the fight to try to keep the fight on the feet. Seth Petruzelli's upset and the controversy that followed was blamed as the deciding factor in the collapse of EliteXC, the MMA league that put the Showtime cable network on the MMA map.

Though Kimbo developed as many haters as he did fans of his MMA experiment, he ultimately quit the sport once the UFC cut him. Dana White's decision to axe Slice came after his loss to fellow TUF Alumnus Matt Mitrione in May of 2010. Slice's final record in the sport was 4-2. Houston Alexander was the only UFC fighter to lose to Slice. Alexander actually told me in an interview that Slice is the one guy he'd like another crack at in the cage. I told Alexander he'd need to follow Slice into boxing if he wanted to fight him again.

One of the promoters behind EliteXC always knew Kimbo could also compete as a boxer if he wanted to. Gary Shaw tried to encourage Slice to cross-compete in both sports in the early days of EliteXC and said on one 2006 conference call that Kimbo's boxing career would be coming soon. Shaw's premature promises took a few years to fulfill, but Kimbo finally entered the squared circle on Saturday, August 13, 2011 and quickly silenced his critics with a first round knockout over James Wade (0-2). It took slice only a handful of punches highlighted by a powerful finishing uppercut to put Wade on the canvas and down for the count. Wade earned $2,000 for being Slice's punching bag and admittedly didn't even watch any video on Slice before the fight.

Wade was a clear boxing pushover on paper, but he's someone who actually has more mixed martial arts experience than Slice. The 39-year-old is a jiu jitsu instructor who also has about 8 years of amateur boxing experience on his resume. He compiled a 3-10 MMA record since his April, 1998 pro debut.

There was some controversy about Slice's bout with Wade being made the main event of the fight card at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma. Allan Green's (29-3, 20 KOs) tuneup fight against Craig Gandy (7-4-1, 6 KOs) seemed to be a much better headliner. Gary Shaw is obviously trying to hype up his newly minted boxer as a larger than life celebrity. Before the NFL lockout ended there was even some talk of pitting Slice against Minnesota Vikings Defensive End Ray Edwards. Edwards won a unanimous decision in his May, 2011 pro boxing debut, but he returned to a more familiar field of play when the NFL lockout came to a close at the end of July.

Slice could actually be a very talented boxer due to the fact that opponents won't be allowed to punch or kick his bad knee. His main obstacle will be his relatively short reach due to his extremely large biceps. Even in his backyard brawls he exhibited a Tyson-esque peek-a-boo style in knocking out most of his foes. He can build on those fundamentals and keep climbing the boxing ladder one fight at a time, but the key is not trying to throw him to the lions too soon.

The only time I ever got to ask Slice a question on a conference call, I asked him what his ultimate goal was in MMA.

"It's all about the paper," he told me back then.

It makes sense that he'd seek out boxing, as it is bound to be much more lucrative for the former YouTube sensation than MMA could be at a sub-UFC level. He has the kind of style that could bring a little more excitement back to the heavyweight division. It's way too early for title talk, but if he remains dedicated and driven to succeed in the sport he could at least wind up with some splinter organization's belt for his troubles. If he should ever pull off the miracle of winning a world title he would be the first American to do so since Hasim Rahman (50-7-2, 41 KOs) held the WBC strap in 2006. It will take some intense work and a rigorous training routine for Slice to avoid being yet another American Heavyweight sideshow. If he does outperform expectations and beat the odds he could get more young people talking about boxing again. Whether you love or hate the guy, boxing needs the boost he could provide the sport if he really takes it seriously. Whether Slice will turn out to be a fickle fad or a future phenom is unclear at the moment, but after a few more fights we should know more.


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