Ran So Hard

By Avi Steinberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 20, 2009

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Ran Nakash, during a lighter moment. (RanNakash.com)

There's no point in getting poetic about it. Ran Nakash punches really hard. If you happen to be the target of his punches, the odds are radically, desperately, stacked against you.

Sure he can do that footwork thing, take on a defensive crouching posture and maintain a special kind of discipline that comes from years of martial arts training and military service in Israel. But really, it's as simple as this: the bell rings, Nakash comes directly at you, feels you out for a moment, then moves in close--relentlessly close--and launches a series of devastating blows until it's over. Sometimes this resembles a boxing match, sometimes it looks like a beating.

Long-time fight promoter, Don Elbaum, summarizes Nakash's style like this:

"He's a wild punching guy. Very dangerous. Guys'll get in some hits on him but they'd better finish it off quick because his jab is like a 2 x 4 to the face and then, before you know it, he'll knock you out with a 6-inch punch. Explosive power."

•••


On Wednesday September 10th, Nakash, who goes by the nickname "Sweet Dreams," arrives at the legendary Blue Horizon on North Broad for a press conference. He's dressed in long camo shorts, a t-shirt that reads "World's Fastest Wheels." At 5'10" and roughly 200 pounds, he looks like an overgrown fire-hydrant with legs. He doesn't say much; there's not much to say.

What's on his mind?

"The fight."

I press him. He shrugs.

"I don't like the waiting," he tells me. "I come to fight. I just want to get in there already."

A few hours ago he took a ten-hour flight from Tel Aviv to New York, followed by a two-hour trip to Philly. Despite the exhausting effects of intercontinental travel and jet lag, Nakash will enter the ring in less than 72 hours to defend his undefeated record, 14-0 with 10 knockouts, against another formidable punch man, South Philly's own Larry Robinson 10-3 with 7 KOs.

Oh, and in order to qualify for the cruiserweight division, he'll have to sweat off a few pounds the day of the fight, a process that involves a long run in a sweatshirt. Hours after the fight is over--regardless of what condition he's in-- Nakash will get back on a plane and fly back to Israel. Ideally, he won't get his face punched in too seriously so he can look nice at his wedding in November.

Nakash is laconic, focused and by the looks of it, completely unperturbed by all of this. His trainer and manager, Raanan Tal, is the opposite: expansive, distracted and anxious.

"We love coming here and Philadelphia has really become a second home," Tal says, "but it's really hard for us. The purse for the fight is $3,000. That doesn't even cover our expenses. We lose money on these trips."

But the journey to America--which the duo have already made for five fights--is necessary, Tal explains.

"This is where it's at. In Philadelphia, every guy you see on the corner is shadowboxing. If you're serious about fighting, you come here to America; this is where the best sparring partners are, this is where the best fights are; there's nothing for us in Israel and Europe is mostly a training ground."

Tal's dream is to have the capital to come to America to set up months-long training camp, to have his fighters spar and square off with the best America has to offer. For now, he must settle for these commando-style visits, hoping that the 30-year-old Nakash, or one of his other two fighters, finds an American audience or at least a patron. And, of course, continuing an undefeated streak helps.

"We hope," says Tal, "but it's been a long road and we're close to the end of our energy."

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