Steamboat Springs It was a bit shocking to see a 79-year-old man calling himself "The Sandman" touch gloves with an opponent and begin to throw punches when the bell rang for the first bout on Sunday at the amateur fighting show Fight Night III.
When it was realized the man was South Routt local Jacob Schwan, it wasn't quite as shocking.
Schwan jumps out of airplanes, which he will do in Oak Creek during Labor Day celebrations this year.
He also is known for basically being a tough old son of-a-gun who is not scared to partake in other activities that defy his age.
"I was kidding about fighting and everyone made fun of me," Schwan said of when he decided to enter the ring. "I figured I had to know."
That also wasn't surprising for Schwan.
The surprise was when Schwan knocked down his opponent in the first few seconds of the first round.
It happened when he was defending himself from the windmill style of punching familiar to amateur fighting shows.
With his arms violently flailing, the fighter, Tyrone Richards, rushed Schwan and became off-balance, allowing the 79-year-old to land a timely right hand to the head, dropping the young man to the mat.
It looked more like a fall than a knockdown, and Richards jumped right up. But the punch was the reason Richards, born some 50 years after Schwan, got a standing eight count from referee Shane Swartz.
Schwan, who turns 80 in December, respectfully weathered the windmill blows for nearly all three of the one-minute rounds in the fight, and landed several legitimate punches. When Richards knocked him down in the third for the second time, Swartz called the fight.
"I didn't come to loose," Schwan said. "But I fought a good fight."
It was an entertaining start to Fight Night III at Romick Arena for sure, showing just one of the reasons why the event is the latest rage in Colorado.
Swartz, who was a professional boxer, and Kevin Shaw organize Fight Nights all around the state, averaging 10 cards a month.
Their latest breakthrough is in upscale bars in Denver.
"I was surprised that it's so easy to book the shows," Shaw said.
Emphasis on the word "show" in his statement.
Shaw and Swartz say they provide pure entertainment, not sport. They put on a show of fights, with headgear and oversized gloves to protect people from serious injury. No sanctioned boxers are allowed.
Fight Night lets normal people get into the ring for three minutes of fighting. And their are also the pretty ring girls between rounds.
Swartz and Shaw's niche is with people who want to see fighting, and for fighters who want to fight.
What drives the business is a full-sized ring that can be set up and broken down in about an hour in any large room, along with the fact that Swartz is a certified referee.
No one else has that combination, Shaw said.
In all, the crowd in Steamboat saw 24 amateur bouts. They also saw a lot of windmill punches and not much boxing.
"There was a little bit, but not a lot," Swartz said.
However, for the fighters, it's clear they weren't there to entertain.
Last year welterweight Sam Silva lost in the championship fight during Steamboat's Fight Night II, and wasn't happy about it.
During his first fight against Josh Vermette on Sunday, it was clear that he had done some practicing. He actually established a jab, kept his hands up, was light on his feet and only resorted to the windmill when he was bum-rushed by an opponent.
"I just want to win this," Silva said.
Three fights later, with one knockout under his belt, he did win the welterweight class.
Sarah Seguin, who uses boxing to stay in shape, said she was sick of punching at shadows and sparing with people during her workouts.
"It's not like being in the ring," she said.
Though she lost her fight to Katie Johnson in the only female match, she stood tall and was tough.
Win or loose, each fighter did accomplish something.
"This is an attribute to life," fighter Robert Dicenzo said after winning a lightweight fight. "It's mentally and physically challenging yourself; I think that's a good thing."
Still, Fight Night is similar to a controlled version of street fighting and there were times when things got ugly.
Diamond Wynn, the middleweight champion, landed a right hook on one of his opponent's face that caused a cracking noise that sounded like a nose breaking while blood flew out of the ring.
Silva also caused some damaged when he stunned his opponent in his second bout with a strong right, which bent the man over.
Silva then followed with three or four clean upper cuts to the face, which produced a puddle of blood on the mat.
That resulted in cheers, as well as some gasps from the audience.
The man was not seriously injured and the fight did prove to be one of the more entertaining moments of the day.
"It was great," an elated Keith Hicks said of Fight Night. "My hands are actually sore from clapping so hard."
Hicks disagreed with the idea that watching the amateur fighting was questionable entertainment.
"If you want to see barbaric, go up to (a local night club) at 2 a.m. and you'll see what's barbaric," he said.
Jake Schwan, in his 79 years may have seen a few bar fights himself that proved to be more dangerous than his three minutes in the ring.
However, he said this is the end of his Fight Night career.
"I wasn't getting into this to lose," he said, obviously a little angry about the fight. "I guess if at first you don't succeed, quit."