After ten months of injuries, false starts, and continuous struggle to hit the restart button, pro heavyweight Garren Smith restarted his momentum with a dominating win on October 9th at the Fox Theater in Pomona, as the semi-main event in Respect in the Cage. Smith beat hometown favorite Andrew “Spike” Gutierrez by TKO in the second round, after Gutierrez’ corner threw in the towel.
“It was a big relief. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever fight again. . . I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fight again,” lamented Smith in the days following the fight.”
“You take enough time off and you run into injuries and obstacles, you start to question what you’re doing. . . Now, instead of being hesitant, and thinking about ‘do I want to fight again,’ now I realize I want to fight again. And it’s got me pretty much right back to where I was when I first started in the game. It was just train your ass off, fight your ass off.”
Smith’s previous outing was in December of last year in Oregon, against former IFL star Devon Cole.
“I knew Garren was going to win this fight because I spar with him, and I know how good he really is. . . They both went 110%, trying to knock each other out. It was an awesome fight. For people watching, I bet it was really exciting fight to watch. Seeing two big guys go at it that hard is pretty bitchin’,” said cornerman Amir Rahnavardi.
“For having not fought in 10 months and go in there and fight a tough guy in there like that, and to show the skills that he showed in there, I was impressed,” noted Smith’s teammate and other cornerman, Chris ‘BLVD’ Brady.
As if Smith wasn’t facing enough pressure coming back from such a long hiatus, contractual hold-ups at weigh-ins caused more confusion. Unbeknownst to him and his team, Smith was kept on reserve as a likely (but unconfirmed) last-minute replacement.
Gutierrez originally was scheduled to face John Potter in a match based on personal issues. According to promoters, with Potter’s reputation for no-showing, it was expected that the match would fall through, and as such, Smith would be their fill-in. Indeed, Potter was not present at weigh-ins, nor did he provide the necessary medical and licensing paperwork to California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) officials. Only after it was established the Potter could not be licensed in time did promoters finally provide bout agreements to Gutierrez and Smith.
The story of the match itself was Smith stalking Gutierrez with left hooks and kicks to the legs and body, setting up for a Thai plumb clinch and knees. Gutierrez worked to keep him at bay with overhand rights and various kicks of his own. Early in the first round, Gutierrez shot in for a takedown, but Smith caught him with a Thai clinch and knees. He later hit a judo trip on Gutierrez and held him briefly with a front facelock. Gutierrez actually turned his back standing at one point, giving Smith the opening to charge in with an overhand right. However, Gutierrez ducked and Smith fell into the cage. Round two saw Gutierrez throw a high kick, slipping in the process and again giving Smith the window to pounce. Smith landed approximately 50-60 strikes before Gutierrez’ corner threw in the towel at 1:07 of the second round.
Smith was aware that ring rust could be a potential big factor in his performance, and in particular noted that the match showed where there was room for improvement: “It made me realize just how much work I’ve got to do. I’ve got to get into way better shape for any fight I take. If I had fought a top caliber opponent for that fight, I’d have been done,” he explained.
Besides a return for Smith, the match also represented continued growth for the Legends team, as the unprecedented combination of Rahnavardi, Brady, and in-house chiro Dr. Joe Canul worked Smith’s corner.
“Amir is great to work with because everything he taught me, everything he did when holding the mitts, right before we went out, that’s what I did to win the fight. Dr. Canul did his magic voodoo on me and completely relaxed me for the rest of the day. Plus, his personality had me very calm in the corner. Chris is very valuable. He helped me with a prayer, right before I went in, that really got me focused. Even though he had a freshly sprained ankle, from that day, he was my runner. He took care of everything. Definitely gonna have him in my corner again.”
Likewise, Rahnavardi noted “the thing that most impressed me with Garren for this fight is how hard he worked eight days before. Because I really pushed him on cardio. He listened to everything that I said as far as getting into shape and dropping the weight. . . What I was telling him on the pads, the way that I was warming him up – he was receiving everything 100%, and then it seemed like everything just fell into place for him,” said Rahnavardi.
Of course, Smith’s win was a big shot in the arm for the rest of the team, several of whom fight later this month and towards the end of the year. “That energy, his positive energy, his happiness, comes into our lives, comes into our mindsets and brings that out in us in our fights,” explained Brady.
Smith is expected to appear at Respect in the Cage’s next event, scheduled for November 12th at the Fox Theater in Pomona. He is sponsored by X-Pole, The Hundreds, and Royal Clayton’s English Pub.