When a two-punch combination made Pat ‘HD’ Barry (16-6-1, 10 KO’s) drop to one knee to take an eight-count from the referee at GLORY 16 DENVER on Saturday night, Zack Mwekassa (11-1, 10 KO’s) knew blood was in the air.
Barry, clearly hurt, looked to his corner team for advice before regaining his feet and re-entering the fray. Moments earlier he had hurt Mwekassa with a head kick and then swarmed him with punches as he looked for a finish.
It was Mwekassa’s counter to that onslaught which had put Barry down for a referee’s count and now, with a finish seeming close, Mwekassa wasn’t about to make the same mistake Barry had.
“We were stood close and I threw a right hook/uppercut combination which he didn’t see coming. He went down [on one knee to take an eight-count],” Mwekassa recalls.
“Sometimes you hit someone hard and he wobbles and you jump on him but you do the wrong thing. That’s what he did to me. I have experience with that; I have been hit by big guys myself.
“I wobbled him the first time and I could have jumped on it but instead I gave it a few seconds and let him position himself correctly before I threw the bombs.
“I am a finisher. I have always been a finisher. If I put someone in trouble they are in trouble. If you are in trouble you are gone. When you smell blood, he has to go. That is something I have mastered.
“When I smelt blood with Pat Barry, he had to go.”
Mwekassa drew a little fire from the Denver crowd after the win on Saturday. He interpreted the boos as either a sign of support for Barry, the hometown fighter, or a feeling that his post-fight victory dance was disrespectful.
“I have to say, in my country this dance is one of celebration. It was not arrogance, absolutely not,” the well-spoken African says. “I was very happy with this victory but very humble. Pat Barry is a great warrior and I was perhaps just better prepared on the night.
“I took maybe three kicks on the leg? I can say that Pat Barry’s leg kicks are vicious. Those low kicks were worth their reputation. But I stayed composed; I had expected it and I worked around it.”
There were very, very few people who expected the fight to go the distance. Barry didn’t and neither did Mwekassa. They were geared up for a quick brutal war and that is exactly what they delivered.
“It was a great fight. I promised that it was going to be rough and it was. That is what I expected. Pat Barry is somebody I have a lot respect for but I came here to do a job. I stayed focused and I did what I had to do,” says Mwekassa.
“The pre-fight pressure in the dressing room was pretty high. On weigh-in day I was completely relaxed then suddenly on fight day there was a lot of pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to prove a point.
“But as much as I felt pressure I also saw Pat Barry before the fight and I could see that he was under pressure as well. So he had equal pressure to me.”
That pressure led to a big adrenaline dump which froze Mwekassa up in the early portion of the fight. Sometimes a large dose of adrenaline hitting the bloodstream can create a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ effect. Mwekassa says he felt exactly that as the opening minute unfolded.
“What woke me up was the high kick. In the beginning I was a bit frozen. I was a bit uncomfortable because [even though I have kickboxing experience] it’s a big change from boxing to kickboxing after so many years,” he says.
“Its not the same positions; its not the same physical expression. But when he hit me with that high kick, that was the moment that made me think ‘ok, now we are in a fight.’ I wanted to pour a lot of fire on him and do my job.”
Naturally, Mwekassa was buoyant after the win. To come in as an unknown and score a first-round finish over the big-name home fighter was an outcome he could hardly have dared dream of.
His prominence skyrocketed in the 48 hours after the fight. The win has gathered him thousands of new fans and created a lot of interest in his next fight. His next move is eagerly awaited.
“I was very happy fighting for GLORY, the respect and presentation. I am very excited about the future,” he says.
“There are a lot of things I need to work on, but I believe if I take the time to work on myself with the right people then in a very short time I will be a real danger.”
GLORY’s next event takes place Saturday June 21 at The Forum in Los Angeles, California.
GLORY 17 LOS ANGELES will host a four-man featherweight contender tournament, a lightweight contender fight between recent title challenger Andy Ristie and California’s Ky Hollenbeck and the return of Mirko ‘CroCop’ Filipovic.
It will be followed by the LAST MAN STANDING pay-per-view, which features the eight-man Middleweight World Championship Tournament and a heavyweight title fight between Daniel Ghita and Rico Verhoeven.