DRAPER — Ding. Ding. Ding. Up to the very last second of the bout, two boxers circled the ring and rained blows down on each other.
Even after the buzzer rang, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and two-time Toughman champion Kelly McCleve still exchanged punches until the referee pulled them apart.
"I've never faced a political opponent before in my life," McCleve told the crowd of onlookers after the fight. "Speaker Hughes put up a hell of a fight."
"Kelly wasn't supposed to train for this. He was supposed to take me for granted," Hughes replied. "Not be in the gym sweating his guts out every day."
The fight was the main event at the Draper Rising, a seven-bout charity boxing match at the Draper Amphitheater on Saturday. The event was organized by Eddie "Flash" Newman, a four-time kickboxing world champion. He trains both Hughes and McCleve at Flash Academy in Holladay.
All proceeds from the boxing event goes to the National Crittenton Foundation, an Oregon-based organization that supports programs helping women and girls with self-empowerment and recovery from situations like domestic violence, mental health issues, homelessness and incarceration. Newman's wife, Charese Jamison Newman, is on the charity's board.
"This is great. People turn out for a good cause, and it’s going to be good fun," Newman said. "Hopefully nobody gets hurt and everybody enjoys themselves."
Each of the seven bouts were slated for three, three-minute rounds. Other politicians and community leaders volunteered to fight, along with boxers from the Flash Academy.
"I know I can take a punch, but I’m hoping not to embarrass myself," said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams. He was asked to fill in for a last-minute dropout a couple days ago.
"I had a 15 minute lesson this afternoon, so I’m ready to go," he added with a grin.
He faced off against Jason Mathis, executive director of Downtown Alliance. The two have been friends for years, Mathis said, which adds to the fun.
"My whole goal was don’t get hurt, don’t hurt Ben, have fun, and don’t look like a fool," he continued. "As long as I do those things, I’m good."
But there were no pulled punches for the fight between Hughes and McCleve.
Hughes is well-known as a tough legislator. He started boxing as a kid in Pittsburgh, but said he learned quickly that "what you did when you were a kid doesn’t translate necessarily when you’re in your late 40s."
"I love being the underdog. I love it when people tell me what I can’t do," he said. "So I think I’m going to hold my own tonight."
McCleve is a two-time champion of the Utah Toughman tournament. He's less of a brawler, he admitted, and relies more on defense and counterpunches.
"It’s very much a chess match when you come to an opponent," he explained. "It’s very much mental conditioning as well as incredible physical conditioning."
Other fighters included Cindy Jensen vs. Amy Donaldson, Alex Austin vs. Adnan Afridi, Jordan McCleve vs. Mike Rutland, Rex Macey vs. Wes Smith, Michael Trujillo vs. Ryan Adams, and Andy Stephensen vs. Alan Dayton.
"If you haven’t tried it before, it looks much easier than it really is," McCleve said. "It’s really how far can you go and how hard can you go. You’ve got to know your body and you’ve got to know your skill level. It’s really a great sport."
As for the night's big winner? The charity. The rounds weren't scored.