Then the announcement came over the loud speaker: "Sorry for the delay. We're just waiting for the ambulance to show up." Hardly the words to soothe an anxious mother of a would-be meanest man.
"That's just what I needed to hear," she said. "Do they do that just to antagonize all the mothers?"
By the time the first bell sounded for the first of three one-minute rounds, Phillips had wandered from the ring and taken refuge behind Floral Hall. Good thing. It appeared her son was taking a pretty good licking. But by the end of the second round, Wilson's opponent, Mike Mattingly of Hustonville, had thrown in the towel, exhausted more than beaten up.
Though proud of her son and glad he wasn't hurt, Phillips had mixed feelings after the fight. "I don't want him to think he can do this," she said.
Wilson didn't. Though he was declared the winner of his first-round bout, he had taken a couple of blows to the chest and was having difficulty breathing. Wilson's common sense won out over his "meanest" desires and he decided not fight on for the champion's belt in the lightweight division.
Wilson's decision to bow out went against the plea of event organizer Rodney Finn, who told the contestants before the fights began not to give in when the going got tough.
"This is your hometown," Finn told the fighters, pumping them up to put on a good show. "Don't go out like that. Go out throwin'."
Only 12 men had enough machismo
Only 12 men had enough machismo to put their machismo on the line in front of the large crowd that had gathered around the red, white and blue boxing ring set up near the center oft the fairgrounds. There were a lot of wild punches, a few rasslin' style take-downs and just enough blood to keep the crowd excited. It was hardly Mohammad Ali in his prime, but there was enough toe-to-toe action to make the Meanest Man competition at least resemble the sweet science of real boxing.
"This isn't boxing, it's street fighting, but it's as close as we get to the real thing around here," said self-described "fight fan" Pete Thomas of Danville. "I know a couple of the guys in it and I like to watch them mix it up. You got your talkers and your fighters. I like to see who can do what."
The fights were monitored by a crew of referees and doctors from the Kentucky Athletic Commission, the same ones who will work the Mike Tyson bout in Louisville later this month. The physicians gave physicals to the participants before and after each fight while the referees tried to keep the action clean and moving in the ring.
"It's good to see people getting back to this," said Dr. Jack Lach as he chomped on a cigar. "We would like to see boxing come alive again in Kentucky."
The fighters themselves had different motivations for putting on the gloves. For Tommy Carpenter of Stanford, one of several contestants who trains at Finn's marshall arts school, it was the need to see how he stacked up as a fighter.
"It's not so much about the belt, it's about the compassion," said Carpenter, 30, who stands only 5 feet, 3 inches tall. "I just want to test my skills."
Carpenter, who said he was undefeated in such competitions and had won the Boyle event in the past, won his first fight but met his match in the heavyweight championship match. Former Boyle County High School football player Brad Scholtz, who won the meanest man event at the Casey County Fair last month, won a unanimous decision from the judges in the title fight.
Scholtz, 18, had to defeat former teammate Joe Conley in a tough fight in the first round in which Conley bloodied Scholtz's nose.
"There's no bad blood"
"There's no bad blood. It's just for fun," Scholtz said afterward, panting hard as his girlfriend wiped blood from his face. "You wouldn't think a one-minute round would wear you out, but it kills you."
For eventual lightweight champion Greg Gaines, 38, of Hustonville, earning a "meanest man" title was a way of backing up a reputation he's been working on since grade school.
"I've always been one to mix it up since I was in the first grade," Gaines said. "I'm just an ol' hillbilly. I ain't got know training, but I've been around and butted heads with people before. I just think I can hold my own."
Gaines more than held his own, raising his hands in triumph in the center of the ring as Finn strapped the gaudy gold-trimmed champion's belt around his waist.
The belt came with a price beyond the $25 entry fee, however. After he had left the ring and shed his gloves, Gaines kept feeling his mouth, eventually spitting out one his front teeth into his hand and flashing an appropriately holey grin.
"The tooth is replaceable," he said before wandering off into the crowd, belt still in place around his mid-section. "Yeah, I'll take the belt to work with me tomorrow. It's about braggin' rights. They'll give you some respect. They'll know you're ready to throw down."