Few fighters have been busier during the past 12 months than Bruce “Pretty Boy” Boyington.
He’s fought five mixed martial arts matches — winning four with the only loss a controversial stoppage against John “First Class” Raio when Boyington said he made a hand signal suggesting he was OK to continue fighting, only to have the signal interpreted by the referee as a tapout.
The Young’s MMA fighter from Brewer won two championship belts, defeating Ruslan Khubejashivili by unanimous decision in April for the Massachusetts-based Cage FX lightweight crown and scoring a second-round TKO over Jesse “The Viking” Erickson of Auburn to secure the New England Fights lightweight title on Sept. 6 in Lewiston.
Then there was the broken right hand he suffered during the Khubejashivili fight that sidelined him for much of the summer.
And finally there was Boyington’s initial foray into boxing on Oct. 11, which produced a unanimous decision victory over Nate Charles in Lewiston.
Well, not so finally.
Boyington (8-7) will cap off his 2014 combat sports schedule Saturday with his first defense of the NEF title in a rematch against Erickson (3-3) as the main event of NEF XV, the 15th MMA card staged by the Lewiston-based promotion since its first show in early 2012.
The first of 17 scheduled fights — six professional and 11 amateur bouts — is set for 7 p.m. at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
The first Boyington-Erickson fight was a tale of two rounds. Erickson was able to get the first round largely on the mat where Boyington was able to escape several submission attempts.
But when the fighters battled from standing positions during the second round, Boyington dominated, eventually landing a succession of unanswered and undefended jabs that prompted the referee to end the bout with both fighters still standing at 2:15 of the period — causing some in attendance to complain of an early stoppage.
“It’s a fight that’s right for a rematch right now given where both guys are at,” said NEF co-owner and matchmaker Matt Peterson. “Erickson’s someone who usually comes out of the cage kind of reserved, calm after the storm, and he immediately grabbed me after he came out of the cage after that fight and said, ‘That was ridiculous. I’m furious. I want a rematch. He laid it out there on the spot.”
Other pro bouts match “The” Ryan Sanders and Mark DeFord at 160 pounds, super-heavyweights Brent Dillingham and Artie Mullen, Jamie Harrison against Tollison Lewis at 159 pounds, Derek Shorey against Matt Denning at 140 pounds and Elias Leland against Jimmy Alexander at 135 pounds.
The 47-year-old Mullen is one of five fighters on the card age 40 or older, along with amateurs Mladin Holman (age 56) of Portland, Pat Kelly (50) of Rockport, Rick Matthews (44) of Bangor and Heath Hanson (41) of Augusta.
“The average age of a competitor on any given NEF event is 26, so having these five guys fighting on the same card together is very unique,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo.
“We have a youth-obsessed culture in this country, and I think most people associate athletics with the young. The martial arts, however, are for everyone. They do not discriminate, and you see more and more people over 40 walking into gyms for the first time nowadays,” he said. “These five athletes are going to inspire a lot of people Saturday night in Lewiston by the example they set.”