SARASOTA – When you think of Sarasota, not too many sports come to mind. The Sarasota Boxing Club wants to change that and it starts with the first pro wrestling match the city’s seen in years.

Mike Ford entering the ring, making his pro boxing debut. The name should ring a bell to local football fans. A Sarasota High alum, Ford accomplished the unthinkable… rushing nearly 3,000 yards and scoring 37 touchdowns, making him a legendary running back. He went on to play for the University of South Florida but in the back of his mind, his love for boxing.

“I was a youngster, but I saw Tyson on TV one day. I see him holding up the belt and that was something I always wanted to do.”

A childhood dream… now a reality. His trainer, Harold Wilen, excited to share that dream.

“It’s beautiful to be in front of home folk and feel the love. It is a kind of added pressure though when you box at home that doesn’t exist when you go hither and yon, so it comes with the territory.”

Adrian Perez, know as “El Chicano”, can relate to that added pressure. Born in Sarasota, Perez started his career over a decade ago after moving to Palau Mexico. Now, back in his hometown, he’s eager to perform not just for his immediate family, but his gym family.

“We’re like a family altogether at the boxing gym.”

Wilen says he hopes to bring pro boxing matches to Sarasota in the future. He believes Sarasota is growing as a boxing community.

Ford went on to win his first pro boxing match.