A Family Affair
Fight Hard MMA is back Saturday at the Chaifetz Arena on the St. Louis University campus and a father-son twin bill is guaranteed to receive the biggest pop of the night.
A blast from the past and a peek at the future will draw the biggest fan base as "Bad News" Bo Kunz (3-5) returns to action against Jacob Zogg and Kunz's son, Austin "Short and Crazy" Cornell, has his third amateur fight when he meets Richard Jones.
Kunz, 35, was (and still is) one of the more popular St. Louis fighters of his generation. Fighting out of the SouthSide Fight Club, he drew big cheers throughout his amateur run that included many bombastic fights and knockouts with a workman's-like attitude. After turning pro in 2013, Kunz put together a busy 2015, fighting four times that year. But since focusing on career and family, he has fought mostly once a year.
Cornell, 19, is 2-0 and has a stiff test against Jones (2-2) who has won two straight.
"I'm excited for him," Kunz said. "This is a big test against a much stronger opponent than his first couple of fights. Austin just needs to use his technique and get the hell out of there."
Fighting on the same card as his son was something Kunz never wanted.
"I always said I wouldn't do it because I would be too nervous," he said. "But for this, we thought, what the hell. It's just a fight. I will have to battle the nerves of Austin's fight and then I can continue on the task at hand. If I can battle past that, it will be the biggest battle of the night."
With he and Zogg, Kunz said, "You have two guys who are looking to knock each other's head off. We will see if he lands his punch before I do."
Kunz and Cornell started their combat sports bond in karate.
"He was a shy kid who would never look anyone in the eye, didn't speak much, and was scared of getting hurt," Kunz said. "Then I got him going with me to train with Sid Gee and from there, we've created a monster. His work ethic is unbelievable. Everybody seems to think he has a future in (MMA)."
Cornell has gone all-in training at St. Charles MMA, following Kunz there after South Side closed.
As a kid, Cornell would often walk out with Kunz to his fights and it seemed like a given that he would end up in the cage at some point in time. And Kunz was wise and humble enough to point to his own MMA path as something not to emulate. While armed with heavy hands, a warriors thirst, and a smothering top game, Kunz treated MMA as more of a stress-relieving hobby. He owns and runs a full-service exterior contractor company that didn't allow him to dedicate the time the sport deserves. Once his dreams of UFC stardom seemed clearly unattainable fighting just for the sake of the fight became the mantra.
"I tell him, my career is a good lesson on what not to do," Kunz said. "Don't overlook your opponents and stay true to your training."
Backed with his karate background, Cornell then dedicated his time to wrestling and went on to become a three-time Missouri state qualifier out of Ritenour and looks to be a part of the rejuvenated Maryville University squad in the fall. He knew from watching cage side the value of being the better grappler.
"I would watch my dad's fights and I would see that was where he would have trouble," Cornell said. "I knew if I was going to do this I would have to get better at wrestling."
Just weeks after turning 18 and before the start of his senior wrestling season, Cornell had his first fight, a quick finish on an undercard of Shamrock FC 295 at the River City Casino.
"The first fight, it was intense the whole training camp," Cornell said. "Just crazy. For the second one, it wasn't until we got closer to the fight. And now it's just certain moments."
As far as Saturday at Chaifetz, while Kunz is anxious, Cornell is both enthusiastic and anxious.
"This is going to be special," he said. "We'll both have a lot of family and friends there and they're going to love it."
Tickets for Fight Hard MMA "The Return" are available through Ticketmaster.com or by going to the Chaifetz Arena box office.
Full card: (Subject to change)
Joe Estrada vs Demetrius Wilson
Lucas Clay vs Cody Carrillo
Charles Bennett vs TBA
Elmar Umarov vs Carl Jefferson
Antwaun Mosely vs Sharky Slyter
Ira Lukowsky vs. TBA
Bo Kunz vs Jacob Zogg
Damian Newman vs Luis Felipe - Kickboxing
Jamese Taylor vs TJ McDermott
Gaston Marabotto vs Kevin Brown
Richard Jones v. Austin Cornell
Fight Hard MMA "The Return"
Saturday, March 9th
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO