‘You’re still boxing, right?”
“Yeah,” K.J. Noons says. “I’ve got two contracts: Gary [Gary Shaw Productions], with his boxing, and then EliteXC [Elite Xtreme Combat], CBS, and all that stuff.”
Noons is the EliteXC Lightweight World Champion. He lives in Point Loma and trains at City Gym on Garnet Avenue.
I ask, “Which is harder, boxing or MMA [mixed martial arts]?”
“They both have their disciplines, but MMA is a lot harder because you have to train in so many different disciplines.”
Noons was born in Hawaii 25 years ago. Took up Kenpo Karate before he went to kindergarten, started boxing at the age of 10, kickboxing at 12, and Muay Thai kickboxing at the age of 15.
I ask, “You’ve been fighting as a pro for four or five years?”
“About that,” Noons says. “My MMA record is 6 and 1, with 6 knockouts. My pro boxing career is 8 and 1, with 6 knockouts, and my Muay Thai kickboxing pro record is 13 and 1, with 10 knockouts.”
Sounds champion-appropriate. “How about the crowds in boxing versus MMA?”
“Totally different. The crowds in MMA are used to knockouts and quick finishes [MMA has three five-minute rounds], so if there’s not immediate action, they’re ruthless. Boxing, it’s more a sweet science, breaking a person down.”
“And you’ve got 30 minutes to work with.”
“Exactly,” Noons says. “In MMA, you’ve got these small gloves. You could get hit with one punch.… For instance, my last fight [48-second first-round win over Yves Edwards], I punched him and rocked him. He landed on his butt and I had to follow through and knock him out. Whereas, in boxing, you can get caught, get knocked down on your butt, get your bell rung, get back up, and still win, in MMA, if you get caught, it’s over.”
I ask, “How many fights a year do you have in all disciplines?”
“I’ve pretty much made the transition to MMA,” Noons says. “I’ve eliminated kickboxing and Muay Thai. Now that I have a title to defend, I’ll defend it, probably, three times a year. So, there’s not too much time to box. But, I’m young in my boxing career. You have to have 15, 20 fights to get a shot or even a top-ten fight. I can squeeze those in anywhere, just to build my rank and, hopefully, win a boxing title.”
I want to know how he got to San Diego.
Noons says, “I grew up in Hawaii and moved to Houston with my family when I was 16. That was a culture shock. Night-and-day difference in the way people looked to the weather. After I graduated, I wanted to move to a city and a state that had a lot of fighters and had weather close to what I was used to growing up. San Diego was as close to Hawaii as you can get, so I moved here.
“I packed my stuff and jumped in my car with no job, no money, no nothing. On my way out I made a call to a friend who told me, ‘Call this guy Mark [Mark Dion, City Boxing owner], see if he can hook you up with a job.’
“I walked into City Boxing and Mark made me spar his guys for my job interview. I knocked three out of four guys down with body shots or head shots. I was hired that day. That’s how I built a relationship with City Boxing, got into MMA, boxing, and went from there.”
“What kind of money can you make in MMA?”
Noons says, “Depends how many people know you, how marketable you are, do people like you... It’s a new sport; someday you’ll make as much as the big names in boxing. It’s getting to that point.
“But it’s a tough sport, man. Just like boxing, there’s a lot of money, but you’ve got to be a household name. There are only a handful of guys who are. You’ve got to have that name, like a Pacman [Manny Pacquiao] or a De La Hoya, then you can make 40-, 60-million dollars. You can probably go up to a group of girls and they would know Oscar De La Hoya; that’s why he makes $40-, $60 million. Do you know who Randy Couture is?” (Couture is the only five-time champion in UFC history.)
“Do you think about injuries?” (He’s going to say “No.”)
“No. If you put in the time, you’re going to come out on top. Fighting, that’s the fun part. Not the eight weeks of training, dieting, running, having no life. When you see me on TV, that’s why I look so relaxed. I’ve put in all my time.”
Okay, wrapping up, “Anything else you want to say?”
“Check out KJNoons.com, and thanks to all the fans who come by City Boxing and say ‘What’s up?’ We train every day, Monday through Friday, at 1:30.”