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Sara Levin | Knuckle Junkies

Engel finds his range in the cage

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Kevin Engel is starting to get a feel for this whole MMA thing.

A veteran of over 80 amateur and 50 professional boxing and kickboxing bouts, Engel had just his second pro MMA outing over the weekend at Shamrock FC: Chaos held at Lumiere Place Casino, and got the stiffest test in his young, cage career.

Engel and Danny Andrews slugged it out for nearly two rounds before Engel won by TKO in the second. Andrews proved to be a game opponent and wasn't shying away from Engel's known striking prowess. Andrews opted to stand toe-to-toe and landed some nice combinations, especially early in the fight and opened a nice cut out the outside of Engel's left eye. But a big shot from Engel that sounded like a lightening clap put Andrews in harm's way and Engel was able to pound his way to victory.

"This kid stood up and brawled with me and I was happy to do it," Engel said.

If Engel seems to have rekindled the competitive spark inside him, mixed martial arts gets the credit.

"I love MMA. It really has the fire back in me," Engel said. "I boxed so much I got a little complacent. I fought in Australia the week before my wedding against a guy who was good but I could have beat but I lost because I was a little complacent."

But he has not waved bye-bye to boxing. Engel will return to the ring on Aug. 31st in Dover, Del against a 13-0 prospect.

"I looked him up and it looks like a pretty even fight," Engel said. "I'm going to see how that goes and we'll go from there. If I win that fight I might have some more opportunities boxing."

Engel is 18-6 as a boxer and has been ranked as high as top 30 in the country. When asked to reflect on his most memorable boxing moments, Engel also has to recount some of his most modest.

"It's kind of odd that the highlights and lowlights are kind of one in the same," he said. "I fought on Showtime twice, I fought on ESPN and lost those fights against very good competition. It was great to get there. I just couldn't come through when it mattered most in those big fights."

If anything, MMA has helped Engel get his mean streak back and that is going to help in his upcoming boxing match.

But how long can he go on doing two sports professionally?

"We'll see," he said. "Everything's open. I love doing both and I'm going to keep working on my jiu-jitsu while I'm training for this boxing fight. The ultimate goal is to build the record and maybe get a UFC fight. My friend Justin Lawrence, I've been fighting with him since he was nine and he's doing great and I would like to try that."

The long and lean 6-foot-2 pugilist can still recall the first time he put on MMA gloves and how they felt compared to his all-to-familiar boxing gloves.

"It's completely different," he said. "It doesn't feel right. I'm used to having a boxing glove on with a thumb on it. It doesn't feel right at all. But once you get out there, it's a fight. You just fight. You don't worry about it. You just go."

Engel is 32, which in the fight world, is no spring chicken.

"I don't have a whole lot left in my fighting career," he said. "I have a wife and a two-year-old son and it's time to start getting on with it. I want to try a couple of things before I hang up the gloves."

Engel hasn't set a time frame for his departure from professional combat. His performances inside the cage and ring will give him all the information that he needs.

"As long as I feel good and as long as I can do it financially," he said. "If I have the time and the energy to train like this, I'm all for it. I love training. I'm almost addicted to it. But I don't want to do it forever and hurt myself or take too many punches."

Engel and his family live in Crestwood and he spends his days managing Mike Shannon's Outfield

"I work only Cardinals home games but I work a minimum of 12-hour shifts," he said. "So when the Cardinals are home I'm there non-stop. I'm scrambling to train in the morning before I go to work at 2 p.m. luckily with my wife, she's great, and it's working out right now. It's a balance. As long as I can balance it out, I'm willing to do it."

Growing up, Engel was more of a jock than a scrapper. At DuBourg he played football and basketball.

"I always liked physical contact," he said. "I had my appendix taken out senior year of football and couldn't do anything, I couldn't further my sports in college so I started kickboxing and I loved it. I've gotten scrappy as I've gotten older."

Photo courtesy of Sara Levin Photography