PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                       February 11, 2009


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Stars of David Shine
in the Blue Horizon

by Kerry O'Connor


Spend some time in the dingy boxing gyms around Philadelphia and most boxers will say that the difference between raising your arm to the rafters and kissing the canvas relies on the difficult ability of blocking out the distractions of your life.


Most boxers aren’t Israeli Defense Force soldiers.


“Sadly, where I come from, worries and distractions…terrors really, like missile attacks and suicide bombs, and worrying about your family, are something you grow up with and you become accustomed to,” said welterweight Elad Shmouel, 23, who grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel. “When that’s your way of life, you don’t have any trouble staying focused during training or during a fight.”


That was certainly the case Friday night at the Legendary Blue Horizon. Shmouel, who took a year off from boxing after finishing his mandatory 3-year service in the Israeli Defense Force, was locked in, absolutely pummeling his Pittsburgh opponent, Khristian Garaci, with body blows, resulting in a second-round TKO when the fight was mercifully stopped. Shmouel’s professional record is now 19-2 with 10 KOs.


More remarkable than his record, or his poise, is Shmouel’s ability to contain what he calls “the beast” within the ropes of the boxing ring, within the first and last dings of the bell, never turning that ferocity towards the enemies of his homeland.


“People are surprised when I tell them I have no bad feelings for Palestinians,” said Shmouel. “It’s not Palestinians that attack Israel with rockets. It’s not Palestinians that blew people up around me when I was just walking to the mall as a teenager. It’s not Palestinians that my brother had been fighting as a commando during the latest ground war.  It’s Hamas and Hezbollah. Those terrorist groups are the people that need to stop hating. I just protected my family from their hate.”


When Shmouel returned to Israel after his fight, he returned to a cease- fire. He could be called back into service at any time, but the chances of that happening right now are slim, and he can concentrate on his boxing career. The beast will find another opponent.


For Shmouel’s stable mate and fellow Israeli, cruiserweight Ran Nakash, life isn’t so simple.


Nakash, who hails from Haifa, Israel, crushed Ohio’s Ryan Carroll Friday night, also scoring a TKO in the second round after knocking Carroll to the canvas with a left to the head and then again with a ferocious uppercut that caused the fight to be stopped. The victory increased Nakash’s record to 17-0, with 13 KOs.


But the joy of his victory will be short lived. Nakash, 30, is still an active member of the Israeli Defense Force. He fought here in Philadelphia with the blessing of his commanders and family, but he returned to teaching hand-to-hand combat in the Krav Maga instructional division this week.


“I don’t know when it will end,” said Nakash of the tensions between Israel and the terrorist organizations who have launched missile attacks into Israel for the last 8 years. “What it’s like to live through the missile attacks, and to hear the alarms and know you have to take cover somewhere quickly, and wonder about your family and friends, you have to live through it to understand it. I don’t think it will end anytime soon. So, I keep training soldiers.”


And will keep training himself in hopes of his 20th professional win.


Just like every other day.





Boston native Kerry O'Connor is a writer and photographer
who lives and works in Philadelphia. He covered the latest visit to
the Blue Horizon by Nakash & Shmouel and submitted this story.

February 11, 2009