It was almost 15 years ago when Marcus Davis last competed in a major venue in Boston as a young boxer in the old Boston Garden.
While his second-round KO of Joe LaRoux that December night may not be that of legend, Davis will have another chance to make an impact in Beantown in a different sport and different venue when he faces Nate Diaz this Saturday at UFC 118.
It's been an interesting last 14 months for the Maine native, one that saw him lose back-to-back fights for the first time since his career began.
Davis admitted he had to work out some personal and professional issues, saying his June 2009 defeat to Dan Hardy was "devastating" and that he didn't take his fight with Ben Saunders as seriously as he should have.
"I got distracted by my own life," Davis explained. "I got everything in order and took a sabbatical."
Davis travelled with his family to Mexico's Puerto Vallarta for eight days and then took a two-week solo excursion to Ireland, a home away from home for the fighter, who has family roots there and hopes to compete on the organization's yet-to-be announced St. Patrick's Day show in 2011.
Apparently, it worked as Davis returned to the win column with a second-round TKO victory over Jonathan Goulet this past May.
He now awaits Diaz (12-5), a relative newcomer to 170 pounds, who while known for all that is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, won his welterweight debut over Rory Markham by first-round TKO.
If the fight stays standing, that's just fine with "The Irish Hand Grenade."
"This kid is really slick. I'm not going to sit in his guard and get caught by something stupid. If I get on top of him, I'm going to work to stand back up. This fight's going to be, I think and hope, won or lost standing up," Davis explained, adding he's only been submitted once in his career thanks to his 'anti-Jits' defense.
Davis has mixed up his training for this fight, spending several weeks in Maine doing "crushing" cardio training, then heading to Ohio to work with Jorge Gurgel and Rich Franklin, back to Maine for more cardio, and then to Boston where he's been for several weeks with Team Sityodtong and Mark DellaGrotte.
While in Ohio, he worked with Dustin Hazelett, whom Davis said was ideal to work with because of his physical similarities to Diaz and his submission ability from all angles.
He's also brought back his first legitimate boxing coach in Joe Lake, who has been working alongside DellaGrotte in providing feedback on Davis' striking.
It's quite a coincidence that Lake, who has worked with boxers Mickey Ward and Dana Rosenblatt, has been brought in to help Davis, considering the co-main event features boxer James Toney in his MMA debut.
And what does the former pro boxer (17-1-2, if you're keeping track) think of Toney's attempt to bulldoze his way into the sport? Davis thinks he has a chance, but not if his back hits the mat.
"If James thinks he understands MMA, he doesn't. He won't until Randy (Couture) puts him up against the cage," Davis said. "If Randy gets it to the ground, I'll be shocked if he lets him back up again."
But while Davis and Toney share the same birthday (coincidentally, Tuesday of fight week) and a history in boxing, both are at markedly different points in their MMA careers.
Davis will turn 37 this week and wants to stay active over the next 2-3 years, but isn't interested in going the Couture route and fighting well into his 40s, due to the toll paid from his years in the "sweet science."
"People don't understand that Randy and those guys wrestled in high school, college and after that. I've been getting punched in the face since I was eight years old.
"I had my first amateur boxing match at 14," Davis said. "I'm pushing 37. I can remember things from a long time ago, but my short-term memory is crap."
Luckily that long-term memory is coming in handy at the right time as Davis is working on a book with famed MMA author Erich Krauss due out in 2011.
This Saturday, Marcus Davis' long story of a career comes full circle against Nate Diaz at the new TD Garden as part of the UFC 118 undercard.
If his conditioning is as strong as he says, Davis may have enough material left for a few more chapters yet.
Josh Nason is a freelance MMA journalist that has contributed to FIGHT! Magazine, Apollo Magazine and Bleacher Report, appearing regularly on The Fight Show with Mauro Ranallo and Rubber Guard Radio. He and Nick Colon will be heading up BR's UFC 118 coverage all week long through fight night. Follow him on Twitter, will ya?
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