Black professional fighters traditionally have had a way of inspiring a generation of young black men, for better or worse: Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson.Kimbo Slice is the new inspiration. What? You've not heard of Kimbo Slice? Well, maybe you don't recognize him because I haven't called him by his full name: Kimbo emmuh-effin' Slice.Slice made his debut on CBS Saturday and introduced a lot of middle America to mixed martial arts fighting. The rest of us have been hearing about Slice for years; he is a mainstay in the hard-core, backyard street-fighting scene. Think Fight Club without the homo-erotic undertones.
The street-fighting you can find on the Internet bears no relation to formal boxing. It's mano-y-mano, skin-on-knuckle assault and battery. People in these videos are fighting to survive. Slice is not fighting to survive in his early videos. He's fighting for money: $3,000 to $5,000 purses against bar room tough guys or the neighborhood Deebo trying to solidify their mythology. He went from being Kevin Ferguson, a homeless college football prospect to Kimbo Slice, the Internet sensation and six-figure draw. Now he's ready to go mainstream, and pretty soon your kid will be playing with a Kimbo Slice action figure in a room decked out with Slice paraphernalia.
The Kimbo Slice fights you can find on YouTube and elsewhere online (like porno sites, for those of you in for that sort of thing) aren't so much sweet science as poetic demolition: Slice's style owes nothing to boxing or martial arts; it is more the un-derivative art of the rumble. He's a top-heavy guy with an incredible chin eager to dish out pain and destruction against anyone who stands in front of him. His style is so raw—so 'hood—it's hard to know how he'll do long-term in the ring with seasoned MMA fighters trained in the art of pugilism. He's a formidable striker, but in order to really hit the big time, he'll need ground-chops: He has to learn how to take the fight to the floor and survive.
His last fight against James Thompson underscored this point. Slice, behind on points going into the third round, nearly lost the fight because of his inexperience as a ground fighter. The bout is being heralded as a huge victory, but make no mistake: Slice won, but just barely. He's got work to do.
Lately, he's playing catch-up in a game with a tight, unforgiving learning curve. He's 3-0 in his professional MMA career, but he hasn't really met a monster in the octagon yet. Purists dismiss Slice as a tourist's attraction. Critics say he's not a real fighter, so he has to earn his respect from the street upwards. That's why he's earned my respect and the respect of thousands.
He's the homeless dollar-hustler who went from bouncer to porno bodyguard to the human cock fighter, making mayhem with his fists. He's a throwback to an age before skinny punks with pants around their legs pulled out grandma's gun-cocked cinema style. He is the doting family man trying to feed his family. Kimbo Slice is hip-hop America's type of champion. Big, black, bare-knuckled bravado, success by any means necessary.
Kimbo Slice is the street dream.
Jimi Izrael is a blogger for The Root.
Single Father, Author, Screenwriter, Award-Winning Journalist, NPR Moderator, Lecturer and College Professor. Habitual Line-Stepper