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This Guy's Not Your Classic Club Fighter
The life of an up-and-coming boxer is often filled with weekends that Ran "Sweet Dreams" Nakash is finding all too familiar: traveling to a different city, sleeping at a ragged motor inn, and pummeling an opponent and dazzling the crowd -- all while ultimately losing money.
Yes, Nakash, 29, improved his professional record to 11-0 last week with a dominant second-round technical knockout of Ray Ruiz at the Legendary Blue Horizon on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. Visiting from his native Israel, Nakash performed as he had in his other three fights in Philly -- with a large star of David tattooed on his back and one etched into the front of his trunks -- and in the end, raising his hands in victory.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that the Cruiserweight and his manager went back to Israel just hours later -- with less money than when they came.
For his most recent fight, Nakash earned a purse of $2,000, but that didn't even cover the airplane tickets from Israel to New York, which cost $2,600. Then came hotel accommodations, mandatory medical exams, license fees, taxis and food.
Raanan Tal, Nakash's manager who promotes a stable of boxers from the Combined Martial Arts gym in Tel Aviv, said that he sees fights in Philadelphia as an investment, hoping that as Nakash's career progresses, the bigger pay days will come.
Still, the road to becoming a contender is no less straining.
"It's difficult to feel like he is an up-and-coming fighter, a champion," said the 36-year-old Tal.
Team Nakash would like to return to the Blue Horizon soon, but without a sponsor, things will be tough. Interest so far has been sparse, said the manager.
Such is life as a club fighter.
Tal and Nakash have no ill will toward the Blue Horizon, a place where Nakash has gained credibility by fighting -- and defeating -- viable American opponents who many experts believe are better than the competition in Israel. Tal has made 10 trips to the Blue with either Nakash or welterweight Elad Shmouel.
So far, Nakash and Tal do not have immediate plans to return to the United States, but they are hoping for the bigger pay day that could come with a fight in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.
"If you're really a good fighter, you're going to go up and get your chance," said Tal. "Ran is 11-and-0 with seven [knockouts], which is nice, so we've got to figure that we're going somewhere."
For Nakash, money earned from boxing is just a bonus, as he already has a solid career as the Israel Defense Force's head trainer of Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art. After training in martial arts from a young age, and fighting in the Muay Thai World Championships at 18, Nakash is in charge of developing curriculums to teach soldiers hand-to-hand combat, and how to neutralize real-life threats without using weapons.
"The Israeli soldiers work in civilian areas; you can't shoot anybody," he explained. "So, in close ranges, the soldiers do Krav Maga -- against knives, against a stick, against an attack with bear hands -- every day."
With Nakash's martial-arts prowess, why not try fighting in increasingly popular mixed martial-arts organizations, like Ultimate Fighting Championship or Pride Fighting Championship?
"I don't like all the hugging," said Nakash of the grappling nature of MMA competitions. "I want to stand up and hit."
Next up for Nakash in the boxing ring is a March 1 fight in Israel against Croatian-born Asmir Vojnovic for the Global Boxing Union Intercontinental Cruiserweight title, according to Tal. The fight should be a good test for Nakash because he'll face a seasoned opponent with a 28-8-1 record.
He felt that "it will be my toughest fight so far."