Story last updated at 3:31 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2002

Homer expatriate has shot at boxing title
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
"Bobcat" Ben Hankins is 5-0 Hankins fought in Anchorage April 11  
ANCHORAGE <> Despite the noise from a rowdy Egan Center crowd, the sound of a 240-pound man hitting the canvass doesn't leave a lot to the imagination.

But after "Bobcat" Ben Hankins landed the left hook that cut down Rick "Chainsaw" Crawford during last week's Thursday Night at the Fights, it wasn't the sound he noticed. Instead, it was the sight of his heavyweight opponent lying motionless on the other side of the ring.

"It was kind of scary, he was like a corpse laying there," Hankins said of looking down at the first true knockout of his fledgling boxing career. "I'd never seen anybody knocked out cold before."

As the ring officials revived the unconscious Crawford, the Egan Center crowd gave the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Hankins a rousing ovation.

photo: sports
  Photo by Sepp Jannotta, Homer News
Hankins lands a jab as he holds Rick "Chainsaw" Crawford against the ropes during last week's Thursday Night at the Fights heavyweight bout.  
With the victory and over $200 in hand, the southpaw improved his boxing record to 5-0.

When the Alaska State Boxing Championships begin tonight, the 26-year-old Hankins will fight at least one opponent in hopes of keeping his record perfect and advancing. If he wins, he may have to fight again tonight to move into Friday's title fight.

Hankins' decision to try his hand at boxing <> it was a New Year's resolution actually <> came on the heels of a fall road trip during he tried a number of things for the first time. He took a roller coaster ride. He bungee jumped. He rode a mechanical bull. And he liked it.

So when he temporarily moved from Homer to Anchorage late last year, the Homer High High graduate resolved to try boxing <> just to see what happened, he said.

Prior to his Feb. 28 debut, Hankins got in a few training sessions on the stationary bike, some weightlifting, but no sparring.

So, with no fighting experience, Hankins jumped in the ring.

"When the guy on the PA said there was 45 seconds to go in the fight, I thought 'You've got to be kidding,'" Hankins said. "Afterwards, I thought I'd never do it again."

But Hankins did more than survive the three-round battle, he won by unanimous decision over Dale "Smitty" Smith.

In the days that followed it dawned on Hankins <> he liked it.

Skipping the next week's fight, Hankins found a sparring partner he boxes once a week in an Anchorage garage.

Sitting in his downtown apartment on Friday, Hankins watched the previous night's fight on videotape and critiqued his footwork, commenting on how his opponent, "Chainsaw" Crawford, had kept his hands dangerously low.

"He's wide open," Hankins said as the video version of himself knocked

Crawford flat.

Hankins popped in an earlier fight <> this one versus Kenneth "Wolfman" Moto.

"I fought the 'Wolfman' on a full moon," Hankins said. "I thought that's got to be some bad mojo."

All the Hankins' tapes show the same thing <> "Bobcat" using his superior strength and a fearless attacking style to overwhelm his opponents. Three, including "Wolfman," have gone down by

technical knockout.

The tape viewing is not an exercise in vanity for Hankins, who earned a walk-on spot with the football team while attending Montana State University in Bozeman. He studies the $20 tapes, going to school on the better fighters.

"Boxing is a gut check," Hankins said. "You find out if "you can take a hit, if you can throw a punch. "And when you're hurt and you're tired, if you'll be able to push yourself to win."

And in discovering these things about himself, Hankins learned one more thing: He likes it.