Friday night on ESPN2, “Cowboy” Dale Brown gets what must be considered his last shot at a major cruiserweight title when he meets O’Neil “Give ‘em Hell” Bell for the vacant IBF 200-pound strap. For the fourth time in his 11-year professional fight career, Brown is knocking on the door of a major reward, but is now equally as close to the end.
In Ernest Hemmingway’s novel “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” a quiet conflict possesses the character Robert Jordan as he fulfills his duties as demolitions expert, perhaps at the expense of his own life. He is a type of tragic hero. Our character, Dale Brown, is also a demolitions expert; his specialty is throwing punches as he continues to go to war for the chance at glory - despite its heavy toll. However, at 33 years of age and having been battered, beaten and knocked out in his three prior grasps at the prize, the cost has been a heavy one to bear.
This week Brown faces yet another big bomber when he meets 30-year old O’Neil Bell at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Bell brings a 23-1-1 record - complete with 22 knockouts - and is considered by many to be the second-best cruiser next to WBC/WBA ruler Jean-Marc Mormeck. The only opponent to escape the power of Bell was Ka-Dy King, who had his bout stopped prematurely due to a cut caused by an accidental clash of heads. The lone loss in the seven years Bell has been fighting pro was in just his second fight when he was knocked out in the fourth round. Since then Bell has been throwing bombs away and hitting the mark.
Our conflicted hero Dale Brown finds himself in a position he has been in before and must be hoping for a different result. His 33-3-1 career mark has him again on the verge of a major title, but once more he meets an opponent who carries heavy hands. Prior losses to Vassiliy Jirov (KO 10), Wayne Braithwaite (TKO 8) and Jean-Marc Mormeck (TKO 8) were to opponents who are, like Bell, talented big men that wear down their opponents before taking them out for good.
In order to avoid a similar fate to that which he suffered in these defeats, the Canadian Brown must implement the art of war punctuated by steady jabs and right crosses at a distance. His success will be keyed on doing enough offensively to keep Bell at bay, yet not so much as to leave himself vulnerable to a heavy counterattack. It is a strategy that has proven successful in the past against big hitters, such as when Brown broke down Rich LaMontagne, and most recently his demolition of limited but heavy hitting Shelby Gross.
The opportunity to battle for the IBF title came about as a result of O’Neil Bell and Kelvin “Concrete” Davis not being able to come to terms on a rematch of their controversial bout in 2003 when Bell hit Davis when he was already down. The fight was recorded as a TKO 11 victory for Georgia native Bell, as Davis got up from the late hit, but shortly thereafter was deemed unable to continue. That fight was also an IBF eliminator and the governing body ordered a rematch after the ending was protested by Davis and his camp. Bell, however, refused the IBF’s order for a rematch and Davis went on to a different path. Now the IBF #3 rated cruiserweight, Dale Brown gets his shot at the championship by meeting its #1 ranked fighter O’Neil Bell. Whether it is through memory loss or the great minds in charge being unable to agree on much, the second spot in the IBF sub-200 pound ranking is vacant so #1 and #3 meet for its title strap.
Time is running short for Dale Brown and this likely will be his last shot at a major championship belt. He has held the NABF, NABA, WBO, NABO and Canadian cruiserweight titles, while only falling victim to the top fighters in the division. O’Neil Bell is certainly one of the best cruiserweights today and will make a major statement if he is able to get past the veteran Brown this weekend.
In the book “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” Hemingway writes, “The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”
Dale Brown has fought for his place in boxing for eleven years without winning a major title and failing when the stakes were highest. While he may very much hate to leave the sport, a convincing defeat this week may leave him with no choice.