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'Bazooka Joe' a precocious pro

Area resident Joe Linenfelser, 17, is the youngest licensed pro boxer in the nation.

Published September 20, 2005

NEW PORT RICHEY - When college representatives touting the merits of a post-high school education recently asked a group of Ridgewood seniors what career plans they had, Joe Linenfelser caught them by surprise.

"I'm a pro athlete now," Linenfelser said. "I'm going to start making money doing that."

Linenfelser, 17, wasn't kidding. The New Port Richey resident is the youngest licensed professional boxer in the United States. He was licensed by the Iowa Athletic Commission on Sept.1.

"It is pretty unusual," said Anibal Miramontes, owner of Fight Fax and official recordkeeper for the Association of Boxing Commissions. "He must be the only fighter I have in the files born in 1988."

Linenfelser, who turns 18 in July, moved from Durand, Ill., in August. Florida doesn't license boxers until they are 18, but Iowa did so "because he showed exceptional ability," said Linenfelser's father, Jeff, a carpenter and boxing coach.

To be licensed, Joe Linenfelser had to meet with Dave Neil, commissioner of the Iowa Athletic Commission, submit his grades and a letter from a teacher, then convince Neil his decision was his own.

Because he already was sparring against pros more than 10 years older, Linenfelser and his father figured, why not start early?

"We could make more money off the fact of me being a lot younger, and it'd be easier to do more PR work with that kind of thing," Linenfelser said.

Linenfelser's father, who has a marketing background, came up with the fight name, "Bazooka Joe," to capitalize on his son's age. He said he asked The Topps Company, Inc., for permission to avoid any trademark infringement.

"You're a kid, you like to chew bubblegum, nobody's ever used that name, it's been around for a hundred years, and he hits like a bazooka," Jeff Linenfelser said. "It just kind of fit. Kids chew bubblegum. Marketing-wise, you just couldn't beat it."

The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Linenfelser has his debut, a four-round fight against Marcus Pendleton, set for Oct.18 in Waterloo, Iowa. If he wins Linenfelser has another tentatively scheduled for Nov.12 in Milwaukee. He hopes to make his bay area debut the following week and fight on the undercard of an Arturo Gatti fight in January.

Linenfelser began boxing at age 6. A former national kickboxing champion ("Kickboxing was too easy," he said), he won numerous Silver Gloves championships (the equivalent of Golden Gloves for boxers age 8-15) while compiling a 36-12 amateur record.

Linenfelser began training with Russ Chiary of Sweet Science Boxing in New Port Richey about a month ago. Chiary's son, Brian, 23, turned pro at age 18.

"He's got good power with his hooks," Chiary said. "These people in Iowa have seen him in the amateurs. I've never seen him, so they know more than I do. In order to license him, they must have seen something."

For his first fight, Linenfelser likely will make between $400-$600, Chiary said. Rounds and purses will increase as he progresses.

"I want to do this as long as I can and make as much money at it as I can and enjoy the sport," Linenfelser said. "If all goes well, maybe I'll have enough money to retire at an earlier age."

[Last modified September 20, 2005, 04:32:26]

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