Saturday, March 31, 2007

IFL Weekend Wrap-Up

By Ben Fowlkes

Life is tough when you’re on top. It seems like as soon as there’s a champion, everyone is waiting to see them fall. Just ask the Quad Cities Silverbacks.

Last year they went undefeated in the IFL and demolished the Portland Wolfpack for the inaugural World Team Championship. They got the accolades and the championship rings, but as coach Pat Miletich has often said, keeping a world title is much more difficult than winning it.

The Silverbacks learned this when they lost a very close – and some might say controversial – match against the L.A. Anacondas to begin their 2007 season. Immediately fans started talking about the decline of the Miletich-led team. The Anacondas became the media darlings that the Quad Cities crew had been only a few months before.

Add to this the fact that two other Miletich disciples – Matt Hughes and Tim Sylvia – lost their championship titles at around the same time, and plenty of people were ready to write off the Miletich camp altogether.

The unfairness of that situation is not lost on the Silverbacks’ star heavyweight, Ben Rothwell. In a recent interview Rothwell said that he was surprised at how quickly fans were ready to abandon the team after only one loss, but promised they would be ready to defend their title in Moline, Illinois next Saturday.

“We were kind of robbed of a win there,” Rothwell said of the loss, referring to Bart Palaszewski’s decision loss to Chris Horodecki. “Everything completely changed after that. This has been the hardest training I’ve ever gone through in my life.”

The team’s light heavyweight, Mike Ciesnolevicz, echoed the sentiment. Scratched from the card with a broken nose, Ciesnolevicz said one of the reasons he was unable to train with the team while recuperating from the injury was due to the sheer intensity of the workouts.

“We don’t do any light sparring or light training,” Ciesnolevicz said. “We go all out, and I couldn’t do that with a broken nose.”

The Silverbacks know they have to win this one to salvage their season. After talking to some of the fighters, however, it doesn’t seem like the loss to the Anacondas has hurt the team’s championship swagger at all.

I wouldn’t call the Miletich squad cocky – at least not in an article with my name attached to it – but to quote Lawrence of Arabia, they do seem to have the bit between their teeth.

Red Bears Regroup, Tiger Sharks Search for Stability

Following their lopsided defeat to the Pitbulls in February, Red Bears coach Igor Zinoviev went looking for answers in the same place several IFL coaches before him have tried: replacements.

Of the Red Bears team that took the ring in Atlanta, only welterweight Mark Miller and middleweight Chris Albandia remain. Both lost in their IFL debuts, although Miller’s gritty performance won over the crowd.

But will the Red Bears be a better team with three new fighters – Mike Corey, Homer Moore, and Adam Maciejewski – added to the roster?

If the recent IFL past is any indication, the answer is no. Maurice Smith’s Tiger Sharks, who will face the revamped Red Bears on April 7th, have learned that the hard way.

In fact, when asked what the strengths of the Seattle team were this time around, welterweight Brad Blackburn pointed to how relatively stable the roster has been since their last match. It seems that as time goes by in the IFL, teams are learning that success doesn’t come overnight, but it will come when fighters have a chance to learn and grow and train without constantly fearing for their jobs.

Odds are that’s a lesson the Tiger Sharks will be hoping to teach the Red Bears this Saturday night.

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