Mixed martial arts fights are becoming a popular event at the Brown Trout Festival, and fighters train many months to get in shape.
This year's fights feature the debut of a promising new fighter, Taylor Kowalewsky, 20, of Alpena, who has been training for the last six months with professional trainer Peter James Sowders.
His debut fight is today and he will face Alan Dickerson, who is also making his debut fight as an MMA fighter.
Taylor Kowalewsky, pictured here, debuts as an?MMA fighter at the Brown Trout Festival today. He has been training as a fighter for the last five months.
Kowalewsky was training to become an MMA fighter and met Sowders six months ago at the Alpena Health and Racquet Club. Sowders noticed some talent, but saw that Kowalewsky was making some serious mistakes.
"He had his hands wrapped all wrong. And he kept them too low. I offered to show him the right way to do things, if he was serious about training," Sowders said.
Sowders has a long history with fighting and training. He is a certified USA Boxing coach, certified USA fighter, and a certified American Council for Exercise trainer. He is also a two-time Golden Gloves winner, the Iowa Amateur Boxing Federation champion in 2007 and has hundreds of professional fights under his belt.
"I was very lucky to meet James. I think things happen for a reason, and I feel like this is a great chance for me to do something big," Kowalewsky said.
The two train for three hours a day and five days a week. They often start as early as 5:30 a.m. as Kowalewsky is a full-time welder at Scientific Break Equipment. He avoids smoking, drinking and drugs of any kind.
"You can barely get a swear word out of the kid," Sowders said with a laugh.
Their training routine starts with several minutes of stretching and wrapping their hands to keep them safe from injury and then later incorporates a four-mile run, which includes constant punching, six minutes of sparring on heavy bags, three rounds of boxing sparring and three rounds of MMA-style sparring.
"I started out by getting him to 'taste the leather' to get him used to fighting. Then I increased the intensity slowly. Starting too hard will hurt him," Sowders said.
After six months of training, the 175-pound Kowalewsky holds his own against the much more experienced Sowders.
During their training, Sowders shouts encouragements and praise to Kowalewsky, such as 'nice punch!' and 'great combo!' He also points out mistakes that Kowalewsky has made during their sparring. He reinforces this mistake with a slight shot to the head. This shot is not designed to hurt Kowalewsky, but to remind him that his mistakes could cost him big in the ring.
"Yelling and screaming at him makes no sense. It's counter productive," Sowders said.
Before each round, the two punch fists in a sign of mutual respect.
Both of them are ambitious for Kowalewsky's future career but understand the slow process it takes to be a champion.
"I don't want him to have a belt now, maybe in five years," Sowders said.
"All I'm focused on is the next fight and doing what I can do to win," Kowalewsky said.
The two are very proud of the progress Kowalewsky has made over the last several months.
"I've been training fighters a long time. This kid is the best fighter I've ever trained. He's going to go into the ring and win," Sowders said. "The only person who's going to beat him..."
"Is myself," Kowalewsky finished.