Thank You Travis Simms for Bringing Big Time Boxing Back to Bridgeport

By Kirk Lang


Thank You Travis Simms for Bringing Big Time Boxing Back to Bridgeport

Travis Simms lost his perfect record and WBA junior middleweight championship to the Canadian Joachim Alcine by unanimous decision on Saturday, July 7. It was the least exciting world title fight on an eight-bout card that featured three world title bouts.
The Connecticut Post, which covered Simms faithfully leading up to the bout, pulled no punches after it was over. Writer Chris Elsberry said of Simms: "He clutched. He grabbed. He held. He never boxed." He also wrote, "Travis Simms owes us. He owes us a fight. Because injured hand or not, Simms really didn’t do any fighting in Saturday night’s WBA super welterweight championship loss to Alcine."

Dan Rafael of, previously the longtime boxing writer for USA Today, said, "To say that Simms had an off night would be a major understatement."

Perhaps Simms brought all the harsh criticism on himself after all the brash pre-fight talk he didn’t live up to. However, he should be given credit for doing what other fighters haven’t done in 80 years – bringing a world championship boxing back to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The Simms-Alcine WBA junior middleweight title fight took place at Bridgeport’s Arena at Harbor Yard – which is about 17 minutes from Simms’ hometown of Norwalk. Simms became a world champion earlier this year by notching a ninth-round TKO of Worcester, Massachusetts’ Jose Rivera after over two years of inactivity.  Let’s be honest, the WBA belt he won in 2003 wasn’t a real world championship, because the WBA created two belts in the same division and when the real WBA champion won another organization’s belt (it was Shane Mosley at the time) he got upgraded by the WBA to "super" champion status. Simms in December 2003, won the WBA’s so-called "regular" WBA title, or rather, the lesser belt.

This past January though, Simms won the only WBA strap (there has not been a WBA super champion at 154 since Winky Wright moved up to middleweight), and he won it with no ifs, ands, buts or regulars about it. As a Connecticut resident, I was so proud to see someone from my home state earn world championship honors. I was twice as proud when Chad Dawson won the WBC light heavyweight title one month later by dethroning Tomas Adamek, because now Connecticut had two reigning world champions.

Dawson made his first title defense in Hartford last month while Simms made his first title defense two weeks ago – against Alcine – in Bridgeport. Thank you Travis. Bridgeport’s my hometown. I was born there, spent the first nine years of my life there and continued to visited relatives in Bridgeport on a weekly basis until my early 20s. Simms, instead of making his first defense in some far away state, or even at one of Connecticut’s two mega-casinos, decided to bring boxing to the Arena at Harbor Yard, which had never hosted a boxing event before. Simms, sometimes known as a, how should I say, great storyteller – he was not the 1996 Olympic alternate to David Reid as he told people-- also said a few years ago at the Bridgeport P.A.L. boxing gym that he was making efforts to land a fight at the Arena at Harbor Yard. We thought it was just Simms doing what he’s great at – talking. A great deal of time went by but Simms’ story eventually came true. He headlined a fight at the Arena at Harbor Yard.

It didn’t turn out the way he had hoped but he did bring boxing to the Arena at Harbor Yard, and entered the fight as a world champion, not just as a local prospect or local contender. You never know if the guy you’re watching in the gym will reach his world title aspirations or fall short of them. Simms achieved his lifelong dream and even if he never wins another title again or has another great performance like the night against Rivera, he will go down in Connecticut history as one of just a handful of boxing world champions from the Nutmeg State. I’m proud of him. Prior to Simms defeating Rivera in January, Connecticut's last legitimate world title holder (WBA, WBC or IBF titles) was Marlon Starling, who became the WBA welterweight champion in August 1987 by scoring an eleventh round TKO of previously undefeated Mark Breland, a 1984 Olympic gold medallist. Starling went on to win the WBC 147-pound crown but lost it in 1990 to Maurice Blocker. Before Starling's dream of a world title came true in the 1980s, the Nutmeg's State's previous world champion was the legendary Willie Pep, who first became champion in 1942 by defeating Chalky Wright on a unanimous 15-round decision. There were a couple of other champions before Pep but the list is a short one.

Even if Connecticut residents were turned off a bit by Simms’ mouth leading up to his bout with Alcine, how could you hold a grudge once he entered the arena dressed in All-American red, white and blue, chose a Ray Charles song for his entrance music, had the State of Connecticut symbol on the back of his robe and had members of his entourage waving American flags? You couldn’t.

Simms, prior to losing to Alcine and without beating anyone in the top ten pound-for-pound rankings or making a single successful title defense of a real world championship (as opposed to the "regular" schmegular belt he won in 2003 and defended once against Bronco McKart), was claiming he was the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. Confidence is one thing but making such a claim is an insult to guys like Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Winky Wright. While I may have wished someone could deflate Simms’ ego a notch or two, I didn’t really want to see him lose. I didn’t want to see a Connecticut world champion lose his title in the city in which I was born. I didn’t really want to see Simms lose in the city that was back doing world championship boxing because of him. If not for Simms on Saturday night, Bridgeport’s last night of world championship boxing would have been Oct. 22, 1927, when Pinky Silverberg won the vacant NBA world flyweight title with a seventh-round disqualification over Ruby Bradley.

Let’s hope it’s not another 80 years before Bridgeport hosts a night of world championship boxing. Thank you Travis for getting Don King to bring his promotional flair to Bridgeport.


Send questions and comments to: