FORT THOMPSON, S.D. – Ray Hawk, Crow Creek Sioux, started Native American Warriors because a large percentage of boxing takes place in Native American-owned casinos. “But you very seldom see a Native fighter on the card. You can bet if they were Puerto Rican- owned casinos there would be Puerto Rican fighters or if they were Mexican-owned casinos there would be Mexicans on the card. That’s the way it is in the boxing business.”
Hawk is concerned about young Native boxers. He’s concerned that if they can’t get fights they’ll quit training and fall by the wayside. “They go through the amateur ranks, try out for the Olympics and then they’re done without anybody looking out for them – managing them and getting them winnable fights and a decent purse. They often end up into drugs and booze and gang violence and we end up burying them at an early age. There’s something wrong with that.”
He created his organization, Native American Warriors, to try to correct that. He wants to give young Native boxers a chance at a profession, “something you can make a living at. They aren’t necessarily world class fighters, but it’s a profession. There’s only a handful at the top making all the money. That’s the way it’s been, but now with Indian casinos in professional boxing the winds are starting to change a bit.” But that change is very slow and frustrating to Hawk.
“It’s hard to get Native fighters in casinos,” he said. He blames that on the marketing departments of many casinos which are not run by tribal people. “The marketing people are turning me away. The tribes own the casinos, but today it’s the tail wagging the dog. I talk to the marketing people and they say they’re using a big promoter they work with and can’t do what I want. If the tribe knew my organization was trying to keep kids out of the graveyard, off drugs and on the right road as well as make them a little money. …”
He used a recent situation as an example of what too often happens. A casino hired a promoter from California whose name they got from the Internet. The promoter came and brought his own fighters. “He books a few locals but he brings his own guys, the feature fighters, and they get paid the best. They get a win and often a knockout on their record and move on taking the money. There are local Native fighters right on the reservation that could have made some money just as well, win or lose,” Hawk said.
He does work with some casinos on a fairly regular basis. He mentioned 4 Bears Casino in New Town, N.D., the Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley, Idaho, the Grand Casino Hinckley in Minnesota and the Apache Gold Casino in Arizona are places he sometimes books fighters. But there are a lot of other Native-owned casinos that he has trouble getting in.
He presently represents about 15 fighters, mostly boxers but a few mixed martial arts fighters as well. His own background is in boxing. He was an amateur boxer, his son Shawn is one of the top boxers in the country, and he’s been training boxers since 1998. He started in the managing part and working with Native fighters watching Shawn trying to get started. Most of his current fighters are from Sioux country but it’s certainly not restricted to local fighters.
His big push is two-fold, although both aspects are closely related. He wants to see more Indian-owned casinos book Native American boxers. “In Indian casinos we can protect our Native fighters,” he said. This means bouts can be arranged where they have a legitimate shot at winning, rather than simply being put into the ring with a better boxer so he can improve his record. The sheer number of Indian casinos offering boxing events now has the potential to provide many more bouts for Native fighters than ever before, thus providing young fighters with a chance to earn a living.
The second part is to provide guidance and opportunity for young Native Americans who otherwise might go the wrong direction. “You take this kid with no direction; book him a fight; keep him active. He’s training and he’s ready for a fight. There’s a purpose for training. You see young kids hanging themselves around here, shooting themselves. The casinos can help me help a kid like that go down a different road.”
“We can get wins and keep our own people working. That may sound racist, but Native casino boxing can coexist with Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Now we can have a place in professional boxing.”
Hawk is continually booking fighters and can be contacted at P.O. Box 511, Fort Thompson, S.D. or email@example.com; by phone at (605) 682-9150 or online at www.nativeamericanwarriors.net.