While the debates about fighting in hockey continue in North America, a group of Latvian marketing gurus — Olafs Saulriets, Normunds Namnieks and Eduard Roitman — got together to organize a special event called "ICEBOX-2011," where "Hockey Meets the Ring."
The event was dubbed the 1st International Hockey Boxing Championship. The list of participants included Brandon Sugden, Ronald Petrovicky, Evgeny Artyukhin, Kip Brennan, as well as Alexei Shirokov of the KHL.
(Artyukhin had to pull out of the competition because of an injury he sustained playing for Russia in the IIHF World Championships last month.)
"Everything started two years ago when we came up with an idea to have two boxing fans inside the ring — UNICS Kazan basketball player Kaspars Kambala and then the Los Angeles Kings defenseman Raitis Ivanans," Namnieks told Sovetsky Sport's Kirill Belyakov.
"People were excited about the idea and the fight was supposed to take place. But Ivanans' contract with the club ended. He changed his mind about entering the ring, afraid that he would get an injury and be without work."
The idea never went away, however. And this past winter, the organizers started making inquiries to see if hockey tough guys would welcome a chance to fight each other inside the ring.
Former NHLer Karlis Skrastins, who signed in the KHL last month, was hired as a consultant who facilitated the negotiations with potential participants.
The format of the sparring was three rounds, two minutes each. Here was the ICEBOX intro video:
The first pair to enter the ring were Brandon Sugden, who spent the last two seasons in the KHL with Vityaz Chekhov and wore his hockey jersey walking to the ring, and Alexei Shirokov, a Latvian playing for Amur in the KHL.
After three rounds of no-defense fighting, the officials award the victory to Shirokov.
The second bout was between one of the fiercest tough guys in the AHL, Kip Brennan and Ronald Petrovicky, who is probably remembered from his stints with the Winnipeg Atlanta Thrashers, the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers.
Petrovicky managed to knock Brennan down in the first round. But the referee was forced to stop the bout in the second round after a TKO by Brennan, who advanced to the final against Shirokov.
Petrovicky defeated Sugden for the "bronze medal."
In the final bout Shirokov twice sent Brennan down with the referee starting the count, but the Canadian didn't give up. Sustaining the last minute storm of punches from Brennan, Shirokov won.
"It's a lot easier to fight on the ice," Ivanans, now with the Calgary Flames told Belyakov.
"Everything happens very quick [on the ice], one punch, two, pull the jersey over, hang tight, wrestle down and that's it. The whole fight takes about half a minute. And it a lot more difficult on the ring. It's like science…"
Donald Brashear will have his first MMA bout later on Saturday. The ICEBOX event organizers will certainly try to get him to participate in next year's event.
Read more on the official ICEBOX Facebook page.