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Spectators expand Toughman Competition in St. Petersburg

By ALICIA CALDWELL

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 9, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The fights at the Bayfront Center on Saturday night apparently were not confined to the boxing ring.

Some of the 3,000 people watching the Toughman Competition, which featured former NFL players in eight boxing matches, got into the spirit.

By the time it was over, a 31-year-old St. Petersburg man was charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, and a prominent local radio disc jockey was accused of pushing someone from a rival station.

The boxing matches were being taped for two shows scheduled to be broadcast on the FX network, one of them during the Super Bowl XXXV halftime on Jan. 28, said Dominic Pagone, an FX publicist.

Among the 16 former professional football players who participated in the taping were Anthony Munoz, Dexter Manley and Lawrence Taylor. Pagone, whose network regularly tapes and broadcasts variations of Toughman boxing matches, said it's not unusual for the crowd to get riled up.

"That's the way it always gets," Pagone said. "You put people fighting in the ring, and you're going to get people fighting in the crowd."

St. Petersburg police said that's what happened shortly after the event began, when 98 Rock radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem arrived at the Bayfront Center. He and several companions were walking up to the venue when an altercation with a promotions representative from WHPT-FM 102.5 broke out.

Clem, 34, a DJ for WXTB-FM, and the other man, Alan E. Levy, 27, of St. Petersburg, gave different accounts of the fight. Each said the other began an unprovoked shoving match. No one was arrested in the incident, which was referred to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, said Dan Bates, St. Petersburg police spokesman.

At 10 p.m., a 20-year-old Wimauma man told police he was punched by an unknown person from the crowd. Soon afterward, St. Petersburg police officers working the event in the Times Bayfront Arena were called to a restroom to deal with a man who was reportedly trying to begin a fight.

Police escorted Luis A. Rodriguez of St. Petersburg from the venue. He ran from the officers just as he got out the door. He then stopped, turned and pulled a knife from his pants pocket, Bates said.

He took steps toward Officer Joseph Truong, 38, a 13-year veteran of the force. Truong drew his service pistol and told Rodriguez to drop the knife. Rodriguez threw it and ran before being tackled by police Sgt. Tim Montanari. The suspect punched Montanari and was subdued by Truong and another officer, Bates said.

Along with attempted murder, Rodriguez was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence. He was being held in the Pinellas County Jail Monday in lieu of $30,000 bail.

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