Two USVI residents to fight Saturday at MMA in Paradise II


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ST. THOMAS - David Charlton looks every part the mixed martial artist. Tattoos cover nearly the entire surface of his neck and well-toned limbs.

He articulately discusses the different facets of one of the world's fastest growing sports without much prodding. Charlton has trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for the last six years, and participated in tournaments throughout Texas. Before that, he studied Hisardut - an Israeli art - under an Israeli paratrooper while serving as a field medic with the U.S. Marine Corps. Before that, it was karate for seven years in Okinawa, Japan, where the art originated.

There is one thing missing from Charlton's résumé. At 39, he has never fought in the cage.

That will change Saturday when Charlton, and fellow USVI training partner Justin Canfield, take part in MMA in Paradise II at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School's Digna Marie Wheatley Gym. The event includes eight amateur mixed martial arts bouts - five for titles - and one Muay Thai bout.

Charlton will face 21-year-old Jimmy Rivera of Puerto Rico, a kung fu specialist nearly half his age, in a lightweight (155-pound) bout.

"A lot of people are gonna look at it, and I'm sure he is as well, it's like 'Ah, I'm getting in the ring with an old fart, he's gonna gas really quick," Charlton said, "and you know what they don't look at is I'm a cantankerous 39-year-old who's been training in different combat styles for most of my life."

Charlton, who owns Compass Rose Tattoo with his wife Robin, returned to St. Thomas on Monday after a three-week camp with professional fighters at The Arena, an MMA gym in San Diego. For the first four days, Charlton sparred with experienced martial artists, receiving little instruction as they tested his mettle and determined if he deserved the invite.

"I mean, I got everything but the kitchen sink thrown at me," Charlton said. "Took head kicks. I mean, these guys are good - like really, really good, like UFC quality - and I'm not, so it was an eye-opener. I learned a lot. Three weeks isn't enough really other than to just make me aware of a lot that can be thrown at you in the cage."

As if the whirlwind experience in San Diego was not enough to absorb, Charlton was notified late last week that his original opponent, Puerto Rico's Lino Olivo, backed out of the fight. His preparation since August for a southpaw Muay Thai specialist was less applicable against Rivera. Charlton has struggled to find footage of Rivera on the Internet, but feels prepared because of the knowledge he gained in San Diego.

His confidence grew with praise from a 205-pound fighter following a sparring session between the two. Charlton remembered getting tagged with a left jab and right uppercut before shucking a right roundhouse kick. A left mule kick followed to Charlton's midsection, but he managed to catch the heavier fighter with an overhand right to the chin.

"He told me straight up, 'You come with something a lot of fighters don't have: just grit and determination,' " Charlton said. "He's like, 'This guy's not gonna knock you because I didn't."

Reattached to fighting

Seven years separate 33-year-old Justin Canfield and his last sanctioned fight. A 13-fight veteran in boxing, Canfield was recovering from two broken hands when he first took an MMA fight in 2005.

Just weeks before the West Virginia native was to fight in Wilmington, N.C., he severed a thumb in a table-saw accident while working construction. It took about two years for the thumb to fully function again after being surgically reattached.

Canfield has been training with Charlton for about three years and the two occasionally work on their striking with retired three-time World Champion heavyweight Julian Jackson of St. Thomas.

"Hopefully, I'm a superior striker," Canfield said. I don't know a whole lot about the guy I'm fighting, but hopefully I'm gonna be able to stay on my feet, and hopefully avoid going to the ground."

Canfield's original opponent backed out on Tuesday evening and he will face 21-year-old Jose Ordeix, a Dominicano fighter who trains in Muay Thai out of Puerto Rico. It also will be Ordeix's first MMA fight, and will be at a catch weight of 180 pounds.

Canfield previously trained in Washington, D.C., and was a sparring partner of former world champion James "Bonecrusher" Smith in North Carolina.

Charlton let Canfield know of an opening on the MMA in Paradise II card six weeks ago, and the former boxer decided to try out a different style of fighting.

"You know, boxing's a young man's game," Canfield said. "If you don't have your name established by the time you're 25, it's, you know, pretty much over. You're gonna be a journeyman and get your face beat in for no money."

Canfield, an airplane mechanic and bartender, said he has nothing to prove and is simply seeking a win with no concrete plans to fight again. Charlton is confident his training partner will do well despite a short time to prepare and a far shorter time knowing who his opponent will be.

"He is an animal boxer," Charlton said. "This guy doesn't want to get hit in the face. He's definitely got solid defense. This guy's gonna have a fight with Justin stepping in the cage. He's an animal, but naturally. This guy's gotta bring everything."

The evening will have co-main events, both rematches from earlier in the year. American Gemelas Costas will defend his light heavyweight (205-pound) championship against Puerto Rico's Freddy Striker. Puerto Rico's Jimmy Hernandez will defend his featherweight (145-pound) title against Mancini Mahadeo of Trinidad and Tobago. Fights start at 8 p.m., and general admission tickets cost $20. For more ticket information call 344-3831.

- Contact Tim Chapman at 714-9102 or tchapman@dailynews.vi.

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