When George “Comanche Boy” Tahdooahnippah walked into the ring against Patrick Nielsen last March, he had everything going against him. A natural middleweight, he was fighting a much bigger boxer in the super middleweight division on two week’s notice, halfway around the world in his opponent’s backyard of Denmark. It was an opportunity that could not be passed up though. You see, George’s road has been the hard one.
George went pro at the age of 25 after winning the Original Toughman tournament in his home state of Oklahoma less than two years before. Since then, George has been grinding away as a pro, fighting mostly in the Sooner state and often at Indian casinos connected to his tribe. It hasn’t always been easy or fashionable, but he’s built a real career, suffering only a single loss to Delvin Rodriguez in February of 2013 prior to fighting Nielsen.
As a father of 5, a Project Superintendent for Comanche Nation Construction, and an active tribal leader, George is a man with a full plate. I asked him how he manages all his responsibilities and he pointed to family and friends. It “takes a village” as they say. Or perhaps in this case, a tribe.
One might ask how George can stay committed to such a challenging sport with all the other demands in his life. Well, George is a fighter. Always has been. Not only has he been competing in combat sports since before he was a teen (wrestling and kickboxing as well as conventional boxing), he’s also been a fighter outside the ring. He struggled through what he refers to as a “knucklehead” youth, fought a battle with the bottle—an all too common malady for Native Americans, and narrowly avoided trouble on many occasions before turning his life around and becoming the man he is today. Boxing is an extension of George’s Warrior Spirit that dates back to a time well before Columbus “discovered” America.
So when he got that last minute call to come to Denmark and battle the hometown boy for the WBA International Super Middleweight title with little time to prepare, he didn’t have to think long before saying “yes.” Off he went on little notice to take on a bigger man with every possible disadvantage against him. George admitted that it showed once the fight started. Nielsen’s size, reach, and strength were too much for George on that night, and his corner held him on his stool right before the 8th round.
Perhaps other fighters would be discouraged by this outcome, but George is not other fighters. A proud member of the Comanche tribe, he sees this setback as more of a learning experience than anything else. The lessons from which he will take with him this Saturday night when he returns to the ring to take on tough veteran, Delray Raines, in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Raines may have a modest record of 19- 11-1, but he is not to be looked past. Raines has fought against top flight competition, including Erislandy Lara and David Lemieux.
In Raines’ last bout, he suffered a 5th round TKO loss to Alfredo Angulo. A result that does not tell the whole story. Raines was very competitive in the first three rounds and even after being knocked down in the 4th and 5th, came back with combinations until Angulo landed the blow that ended the fight with 44 seconds left in the round.
Unlike in his last fight, George will not be the underdog when he and Raines make their acquaintance. But at 36, the Comanche Boy knows his remaining time in boxing is brief and he wants to make the most of the next two years before he intends to transition into what most of us might call “normal life.”
Unlike many professional athletes, George has real plans after boxing. He has a B.A. in Business Administration, his career in construction, a possible future in tribal politics, and has hopes of starting his own gym–training young Native Americans in the discipline of the sport he loves so much. As George told me, “boxing has no off-season. You can do it year around.” For many young people in his tribe who have grown up disadvantaged, a character building endeavor like boxing can be a consistent, positive force in their lives–and like George–make them better, more capable adults.
That’s for later though. Those dreams can wait. Right now, George only has eyes for Delray Raines. The Comanche Boy has a short boxing wick left and he intends to burn it out until every flicker of light has become nothing but smoke. Starting with Saturday night.