In his eight years in and around the sport of professional boxing, Laurinburg pugilist Jeremy Bethea had never seen anything quite like what he witnessed the night of Oct. 20.
After landing a brutal body shot to his 135-pound opponent Shakeel Creech, Bethea watched as the referee approached the obviously-weary Creech to check his willingness to continue with the fight. Creech would remove his mouthpiece and tap the ref on the shoulder, appearing slightly sick in the process.
And then Creech started to throw up in the ring.
“The entire crowd was groaning when he started doing that,” said Bethea with a laugh. The body punch that Bethea landed would spell the end of the fight, giving the lifelong Laurinburg resident a second-round TKO at the 43-second mark.
“Even though I got the win, I was just disappointed that the fight ended that way. I wanted to put him on the canvas, not have the fight stopped because he got sick. Maybe he shouldn’t have had that Chinese food before our fight,” he said.
Bethea’s unexpected second-round TKO was the culmination of what turned out to be an entire day of unwelcome surprises for a fighter enjoying his big comeback to boxing, which started in mid-June with a first round KO against Deshawn Autry. Arriving to the Marriott Ballroom in downtown Greensboro, N.C. at 11 a.m. Saturday morning for his weigh-in, Bethea was scheduled to square off against Kobelman Williams, a fighter with a 4-2 record.
“I got there on time as usual, and I was looking all around for my opponent,” Bethea said. “I asked the boxing commissioner where he was, and it turned out I was going to be fighting someone entirely different. I learned this on the day of my fight, and I didn’t know anything about the guy I would be fighting.”
The fighter that would instead challenge Bethea was Creech, who also shared the same manager as Kobbelman. The last fight Creech competed in saw the boxer get knocked out by Bobby Hornsby, the number one-ranked boxing prospect in the state of Georgia.
Regardless of the opponent-change, Bethea was confident that his training regimen had him suitably prepared for any challenge that would come his way.
But when he arrived back at the Mariott Ballroom at 6 p.m. that same day, Bethea received his second shock of the day: His bout with Creech would be the last fight on the card, following 10 other matches.
Bethea wouldn’t enter the ring for his match until 12:30 that night, and was resigned to a back room where fellow boxers were barred from viewing any of the in-ring action.
“You’re used to your body breaking down that late at night, and most nights I’m asleep by that point,” Bethea said. “That’s the latest I’ve ever boxed in my life, so I felt different when it was time to fight. But I conditioned in the months before my match to go the distance if it was needed, and once I got in there I was fine.”
Bethea spent the opening moments of the first round of his fight against Creech studying his opponent’s movements and technique. Then he gave him a taste of his power, and it was clear to Bethea that he had the upper hand in the contest.
“I threw a left cross which hit his glove, and his reaction was shock, like he didn’t expect that kind of power from me,” Bethea said. “From that point he was running, he didn’t want to stand and exchange with me.”
And then came the fight’s bizarre conclusion in the second round, followed by a post-fight conversation between the two men which saw Creech admit to his choice of cuisine prior to the bout. Bethea, on the other hand, had prepared for the fight by eating baked chicken pasta.
“A boxer knows not to eat two hours before a fight, and especially not to eat something like Chinese food the day of a fight,” Bethea said. “I thought he was kidding until his manager told me the same thing.”
Since returning to the ring June 15, Bethea is now 2-0 on his comeback tour after leaving the sport of boxing for nearly four years. And now he has a decision to make regarding his next fight.
There are currently two bouts on Bethea’s schedule: One on Dec. 1 at Winston Salem, N.C. and a second bout on Dec. 8 in Columbia, S.C. Both occur a within a week of each other.
But because they are scheduled in different states, Bethea could very well participate in both if his Rockingham-based trainer Mario Olivera gives him the green-light.
If all goes according to plan, that’s exactly what Bethea intends on doing.
“I would do it in a second if I have the opportunity,” said Bethea regarding scheduling two bouts occurring in a single calendar week. “My coach knows that I work really hard and that I have the right conditioning and mindset to pull off something like that. If the first fight ends as quick as the last two, then I don’t see why not.”