Mark "Oak Tree" Brown is a late bloomer

By Kirk Lang


Mark "Oak Tree" Brown is a late bloomer

Tony Grano defeated by 40-year old

Mark Brown TKO8 Tony Grano... It’s hard to chop down an Oak tree without any power tools. Heavyweight Tony “TNT” Grano found this out the hard way Saturday night at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, CT. Forty-year-old Mark “Oak Tree” Brown, in enemy territory, overcame two knockdowns - and some other shaky moments - to stop the previously undefeated Grano in the eighth round of an entertaining slugfest. The official time was 1:10. Brown let out a primal scream after the victory. “I didn’t think I had it in me,” said Brown. “I mean, I knew I had it in me but he caught me with some hard punches and combinations and I aint used to that, but after the fourth round I saw him getting tired.”

Grano wasn’t used to going four rounds, never mind seven or eight rounds. Eleven of his fifteen previous pro fights didn’t go past two rounds. In the past, Grano was never really worried about getting rounds under his belt. He always said he gets the rounds in at the gym. Gym rounds are apparently a lot different than rounds against guys with their records and reputations on the line.

Brown came to win, not to be another hi-and-bye victim. And he’s different than most guys you might find at the gym. This man, in the year 2008, punches trees. That’s right. Trees. “They call me ‘Iron Hands.’ I’ve got callouses on my knuckles from punching trees,” said Brown. “I got no punching bag.” He added, “I know when I fight a guy, his face isn’t going to be as hard as that tree.”
Brown is a lifeguard in Salem, New Jersey and puts in training hours at the John B. Campbell Family & Fitness Center of Salem County, among other places. He’s not in a boxing gym day in and day out like virtually all other fighters so he has to come up with more creative ways to get ready for an opponent. He’ll do laps with the children he teaches to swim, punch trees, punch cement walls, lift buckets of water, whatever he needs to do to get the job done. Brown never stopped coming forward against Grano and usually swung wide. He was easy to hit but impossible to stop.

Against Grano, it was a dirty fight but Brown admits that sometimes helps get the “W.”  He was warned in the first round for a headbutt but didn’t pay much attention to the warning. Instead he talked some trash to Grano. Soon after, the fighters reverted to wrestling rather than boxing and Brown fell to the canvas. Referee Arthur Mercante. Jr. had to pull Grano off Brown after the bell to end the first round.

Brown went down twice in the second frame - each time from a left hook - and it looked like Grano was going to make it another early night. However, Brown survived. Even after suffering two knockdowns, he shrugged off a beautiful left hook-straight right combination Grano landed just before the end of the stanza. Brown landed some bombs in the latter part of the third round - and seemed to daze Grano - but then got too exhausted to keep throwing. Grano wasn’t of the right mind to capitalize when Brown actually bent over and stayed in one spot to try to get some air in his lungs.

Brown seemed to be taking over the fight as early as the fourth frame. A Grano friend videotaping the action yelled during the 4th round, “Tony, you better suck it up and do something now.” Soon after, someone else yelled, “Tony, you’re better than him.” Perhaps, but not on this night.

Brown was battering Grano in a corner a minute or less into the fifth round. Grano was looking exhausted but he hung in there, doing his best not to let his fans down. The sixth round started off with chants of “T-N-T, T-N-T.”  The unified support seemed to help. Grano summoned up some energy and began landing a ton of leather. It looked as if he might avoid an upset after all. Brown was getting rocked. The evidence was in the point he had taken away for excessive holding. But Brown didn’t care about the point. He was going to end this fight with a bang, rather than let three local judges determine the outcome.

Grano came out for the seventh round with his mouth wide open. You knew it was only a matter of time. In the eighth frame, Brown got off to a fast start. Grano at this point was in no shape to trade shot for shot with him. After taking two good right hands to the head, Grano decided it would be wise to take a knee to try to clear his head. He got up at the count of 7 but a charged up Brown jumped right on him. Grano, literally walking away from his opponent, forced Mercante to wave the fight off.

Brown cried tears of joy after the fight and also walked out of the ring with the little-known WBF All Americas heavyweight championship around his waist. It may be a minor title but to Brown it might as well have been a world championship. It is the physical evidence of a big win - against an undefeated 27-year-old - in a fight he was supposed to lose. “If I hit you like I hit that tree you got to fall,” said Brown. “I’ll punch you in your shoulders, your elbows, your neck. I’m breaking you up. I’m going to chip you up.” 

Brown said stopping Grano was a natural high, a high he never felt before.  “I got chills all through my body. I couldn’t believe I did it. I’m going to go back home and maybe the town will have a parade for me. We’ve only got three people (laughs).” Now 14-1 with 7 knockouts, Brown said he would be willing to give Grano an immediate rematch. He added he’d also be up for signing a contract with the right promoter. Brown knows he’s entertaining. He promised excitement in the days leading up to the bout and he delivered. “I told them to bring their popcorn,” said Brown.