Draper • There is probably a large segment of Utahns who wished they could have been in Kelly McCleve’s shoes Saturday night, with the opportunity to sock House Speaker Greg Hughes in his eminently punchable mug and not go to jail.
“Tonight, I’m representing the Democrats,” said McCleve who, by the way, is a two-time tough man champion. During the bout, Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis hollered for McCleve to hit Hughes with a big left and knock him out for Gov. Gary Herbert.
As you'd expect when boxing meets politics, there was no shortage of strutting and showmanship. Surprisingly, nobody got hit below the belt.
On my scorecard, McCleve beat the speaker, but Hughes held his own for the first round. By the end of the third, he was gassed, and McCleve bounced jabs and hooks off the flat-footed legislator.
For those who don’t know Hughes, it may seem odd that a guy who leads the Utah House, which has never much cared for real science, developed such a love for the sweet science.
He discovered the sport back in Pittsburgh, where a rough childhood and a short temper got him in his share of brawls before a coach at an after-school program stuck him in the boxing ring to channel his energy.
As shifty as politicians can be, Hughes was anything but in the ring. His approach was to get hit in the face and keep moving forward, hoping to land something before he caught too many gloves with his nose.
It is Utah politics, after all, where the only acceptable kind of drunk is punch drunk.
The undercard for the night included the “Thrilla of Vanilla,” featuring Salt Lake County Mauler Ben McAdams, a late addition to the event. McAdams is not exactly known for his nasty streak and the strategy for beating him is pretty simple: Let him hit you once and then clobber him when he’s apologizing.
McAdams, who said he’s never been in any kind of fight, got the call Wednesday to ask if he’d participate and spent a whole 15 minutes preparing for the bout with Downtown Alliance executive director Jason Mathis.
It wasn’t much of a fight as McAdams and Mathis slapped at each other and pushed each other around the ring. One McAdams fan tried to get the mayor riled up, suggesting he pretend Mathis was Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who McAdams has sparred with politically over the homeless issue.
In the battle of the lobbyists, Andy “The Angry Giraffe” Stephenson used his 27-pound weight advantage and nine-inch reach edge to keep Alan “The Ogden Spider-monkey” Dayton at bay.
All of the bouts Saturday were exhibitions, not sanctioned fights, so there was, alas, no wagering and no official winner.
The National Crittenton Foundation, a nonprofit that helps women who have been exploited or victims of domestic abuse, received about $15,000 in donations for the night. Yes, the irony of people slugging each other to fight violence was not lost on anyone.
The money will go to help women like Charese Jamison Newman, who was 16 and homeless and exploited in Wheeling, W.V., when the Crittenton Foundation helped get her off the streets and set her on a path to raise her daughter, finish college and get a job with a Fortune 100 company.
So maybe there were winners, after all.