Fight for Flint uses boxing to provide relief amid ongoing water crisis

FLINT, MI – The year was 1964, on Jan. 28, to be exact. Back in those days, the weigh-ins happened on the same day of the fight. So after a couple of fights dropped off his six-bout card, a commissioner approached colorful promoter Don Elbaum about adding another match so the show could continue.

So Elbaum decided to step in to fight a guy making his pro debut at light heavyweight. The guy was Joe Byrd.

Byrd, now legendary for his career as a trainer, would go on to win the match by split decision. But before the opening bell sounded at the Armory in Painesville, Ohio, Elbaum had something to say.

"The referee gives the instructions, and I did this jokingly because this is me," Elbaum said. "I say 'don't forget who is paying you after the fight."

Since then, Byrd and Elbaum would go on to develop a close relationship.

When news of the Flint water crisis began to make national headlines earlier this year, the longtime buddies decided to help local residents through their passion for boxing.

Don Elbaum Promotions has partnered with the Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties to host a special Fight for Flint boxing event at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Dort Federal Event Center. This event is being held as a fundraiser to benefit the Flint water recovery efforts.

Byrd will also be honored with a special tribute for his commitment to the sport. He trained his son, Chris, to become a two-time heavyweight champion and he was the head coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic boxing team that featured gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya.

George Foreman's younger brother, Roy, is also involved as a producer for a live streaming online and through Pay-per-view. Fights will begin at 7:30 p.m.

"This is a whole national problem here," said Foreman, a native of Houston. "There are kids here with that same story that George and I had 50 years ago about poverty, and we all became a product of this compassion in America. We were just like everybody else, and this country helped us."

A 10-round WBC super bantamweight match between world champion Alicia "Slick" Ashley and Fatuma Zarika will headline the card, but other fights still are being finalized.

Former super middleweight contender Tim Littles will return from a 14-year hiatus to face former champion Robert Daniels in a six-round heavyweight fight. Littles (27-3) lives in Flint but works in Pontiac as a work force specialist for Michigan Works.

He was a legit contender in the 1990s, but lost an IBF title fight to James Toney in 1994 and another WBA prizefight to Frankie Liles in 1996. The 51-year-old hasn't fought since 2002, but has trained tirelessly to get back in shape.

"What made me get back in there is for the water crisis," Littles said. "I want to show that I've still got it. That's all. That's part of it. Another part is for the kids."

Legendary champions Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns, Roy Jones Jr., Larry Holmes and George Foreman have been invited as special guests, but none would confirm an appearance in advance.

General admission seats are $27 in advance and $35 at the door. Ringside, reserved ringside, and VIP tickets range from $50-$150.

Tickets are also being sold online at ticketmaster.com or fightforflint.org.

"We don't want these young kids to think that America has given up on them," Foreman said. "I'm aware of the problem and the country is aware of the problem so we want to use this to bring the attention to that even more than the boxing."

By Eric Woodyard | ewoodyar@mlive.com
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on September 26, 2016 at 3:15 PM, updated September 26, 2016 at 3:16 PM

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