When Emanuel Augustus knocked out Courtney Burton last week on the season finale of “Friday Night Fights,” it was sweet redemption, proof that sometimes boxing allows the wronged the opportunity to make things right.
Augustus, boxing’s favorite cult hero, is a veteran of 66 professional fights. Along the way, he has faced: Leavander Johnson, Leo Dorin, Micky Ward, Alex Trujillo, Floyd Mayweather, Ray Oliveira, Teddy Reid, Ivan Robinson, Diosbelys Hurtado, Antonio Diaz, and plenty of other undefeated whippersnappers and top-10 contenders. Often fighting in opponents’ backyards on short notice, he has been the victim of more robberies than a liquor store clerk working the overnight shift. The worst theft of them all occurred on July 6, 2004 in Muskegon, MI. His opponent that evening was the same man he sent to the canvas last week.
Like he had done so many times before, Augustus was entering the lion’s den. The packed crowd had paid to see him be nothing more than a glorified sparring partner. At the first sign of trouble, he was supposed to give up, toss in the towel, and leave Michigan with yet another loss on his ledger. Sometime, the great innovators do not follow the script.
Augustus utterly dominated Burton that night, using his patented “drunken master” style to befuddle the hometown kid. Along the way, even as Augustus continued to assert his dominance, you could sense a tragedy (at least in the boxing sense) was unfolding before your very eyes. Referee Dan Kelley deducted a point from Augustus in the 8th round for merely spinning his opponent out of a clinch. Earlier in the contest, a clean body shot that knocked Burton down was incorrectly ruled a low blow.
After a heinous split decision was announced in Burton’s favor, you could sense the wind had been taken out of Augustus’ sails. He had been mugged in front of thousands of people, and as he circled the ring with his head down, Burton’s people celebrated like fools. As the boxing world cried out in disgust, Burton had this toothy grin painted on a face filled with false elation.
True to his journeyman title, he packed his bags and hopped on the freight train, just a man looking for an honest payday. After compiling a 2-1 record in 2006, he got the call to fight Burton again. In the eighth round of a close bout, Augustus cranked Burton with a left hook to the body. That body shot, coupled with a few follow-up blows, sent his beleaguered foe to the canvas. This time, Burton had no judges to rely upon, no referee to unjustly subtract points. At that moment of realization, Courtney Burton decided he would be better suited to stay on his knees as the count reached “10.”
For Augustus, it moved his record to an unspectacular, if not misleading, 33-27-6. But it did more than add another notch to the ol’ belt. It erased the demons of that unforgettable night a little more than two years ago.
For now, Augustus, without a title shot in his near future, will trudge along like he always does. Sometime, in the not-so-near future, he will be robbed of yet another decision. But that’s life when you are forced to play by the rules of others, under a boxing establishment that cares more about wins and losses than what you actually do in between the ropes. Emanuel Augustus exorcised his biggest demon last week. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more demons to come, more reasons to just walk away from the sport. Walking away would be against his nature, against the very fiber of a man who has learned to take more crap than he should.
As the Augustus drumbeat continues to grow within hardcore boxing circles, maybe he can finally receive the big money fight, the bout he has so richly deserved since his “fight of the year” against Micky Ward. If that happens, if he gets the call for a title shot, that would be the first just decision in a career devoid of them. For now, Augustus can revel in his latest triumph and take the freight train to the next stop. Where the train will take this old journeyman is anybody’s guess.