There is a certain type of fighter who is often overlooked in the game of boxing. Most of the writerly print space and pontificating by the talking heads on television is used up on the elite and the contenders. Which is just fine. Appropriate even. It does often lead to a recycling of stories about the same group of athletes though. Sometimes I think that’s a shame. What about the hard working veteran scrapper who’s been out there moving his career forward inch by inch, making a life for himself in the sport while looking for that one shot?
This is a story about one of those guys.
George “Comanche Boy” Tahdooahnippah grew up in Oklahoma. As a member of the Comanche tribe, George was steeped in the traditions of his Native American peoples. He grew up in a family of athletes and with his own natural prowess a given, he excelled in both football and wrestling. A self-described “knucklehead”, he also fell into the one of the traps that has bedeviled the Native American since the Europeans brought it to this country and offered it in barter. Alcohol.
George’s love of the drink was perhaps exacerbated by genetics (alcoholism runs in his family). By his own admission, he abused the substance, got into a lot of street fights, and caused significant heartache for those close to him. Were it not for athletics and family, George could have become just another sad story. Wrestling was particularly good to him. He became a Greco-Roman All-American, toured Japan as an “Oklahoma All-Star” and then got a full ride to Delaware State University.
After college, George had set his sights on a possible MMA career. Between his wrestling experience, having other family members who boxed, and the perhaps less than glorious results of a partially misspent youth scrapping in public places, Mixed Martial Arts made a lot of sense. Back then, at the turn of the last century, the opportunities to train for a still growing sport were not plentiful, so George went into kick boxing. In 2002, he finished as the runner up in the Sansho-Kickboxing World Championships.
After that success, George came back to Oklahoma and entered the Original Toughman competition, where he stormed through four fights, dominating his way to the championship at the age of 23. Through the Toughman tournament, George got to know fellow Oklahoman, Grady Brewer. Brewer is a legend in the Oklahoma fight game and later went on the win the Contender Championship by defeating Steve Forbes in 2006. George and Grady became friends and would work out regularly together at the gym in Lawton, OK. They sparred regularly and as George began to improve, his confidence grew.
To honor his Native American heritage, George took the name of “Comanche Boy” and any thoughts of kickboxing or MMA were set to the side. He would now be a boxer.
Without an amateur background, George was getting a late start to boxing. He didn’t have his first professional fight until he was 25. However, his heritage helped extensively with getting him fights and solid paydays. The Native American casinos in Oklahoma were proud to host bouts featuring one of their own, and George was collecting $5-6000 paychecks nearly out of the box.
The downside of course, was that his competition was limited to other regional fighters. George knew he would eventually need to step up in class. In February of 2013, George entered the ring against the fine veteran, Delvin Rodriguez. A regular super middleweight, George struggled to make the 157 weight limit and felt he did not have his legs that night. As well, George admits that his own nerves got the better of him that evening and he could never get loose. He ended up collecting his first loss by a 6th round TKO.
Many fighters might have seen this loss as a major setback. After all, by getting such a late start in boxing, George at 34, was already closer to the end than to the beginning, a fact he is not unaware of. To that end, George has diversified his life. He holds a full time administrative job in construction. Two years ago he claimed a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and after boxing he hopes to manage his own construction company. As well, he is very active within his Comanche tribe, working with youth groups on how to maintain good health and doing speaking engagements. He also has an interest in someday entering into tribal politics to help further the opportunities of his people.
However, George is not done with boxing just yet. Since the loss to Rodriguez, Comanche Boy has won 3 of 4 fights, with his only blemish being a technical draw due to a cut from an accidental head butt. This stretch of late career success will lead him to Denmark Saturday to fight Patrick Nielsen in his own backyard for the vacant WBA International Super Middleweight title.
George is aware of what’s in front of him. He’s flying half a world away from his home to take on a national favorite in a hostile environment. With that in mind, the self-described boxer-puncher with 24 KOs in his 34 victories, told me he’s going there to “bang” and he’s ready to “go to war.” As George put it, “I have nothing to lose”, and “I’m going to take it out of the judges’ hands.”
If the result goes as George has planned, he hopes to use a victory as a springboard to bigger fights. At 36, George is aware that he has two, maybe three more years left before he leaves the fight life behind and focuses more fully on learning his business, working more with his tribe, and being more present in the lives of the five children he shares with his wife, Mia. When the time comes, George will be ready to make that transition. He is both ambitious and realistic. This is a man with a plan for the future.
But that future can wait a little longer. Comanche Boy has more to do in the sport of boxing. Next Saturday will be a big night in the life of George Tahdooahnippah and he knows it. He is a proud warrior who not only represents himself and his family, but carries the hopes of his people on his back. He does so with courage and conviction. As a journalist, it’s pretty much in our DNA to be impartial. I don’t mind telling you that will be impossible next weekend.
In many ways, fighters like George are the backbone of boxing. The blue collar guys not often seen on cable television or fighting in Vegas or Atlantic City. The guys who hold down regular jobs to make ends meet, further their education, all while being active in their communities and committed to the most taxing of all sports. Their crowds may be smaller and the lights that illuminate their ring walk less bright, but when a guy like George gets his shot after all the years of building a name and a life in boxing, it is to be honored, praised and remembered.
Next Saturday, Comanche Boy will be heading to battle in Denmark in front of the biggest crowd of his life and no more than a handful on his side. The task is daunting and the opponent boasts a record of 23-1—his only loss a unanimous decision defeat to former WBA Middleweight Champion, Dmitry Chudinov. Patrick Nielsen will have everything in his favor when that first bell rings. I got a feeling he will need all of it.