This Day In Sports: Happy birthday to the ‘Emmett Eliminator’

July 21, 1968: Perhaps the most popular boxer in Idaho history is born. His name is Kenny Keene, and he would parlay a great run through the Golden Gloves ranks into what you might call a “controlled” pro career. It started modestly with raucous bouts at Caldwell’s O’Connor Fieldhouse and evolved into some national television appearances and the WBF, IBC and IBA cruiserweight championships. But he was always true to his Idaho roots. Keene first retired in 2000—and hung ‘em up for good in 2006.

Keene’s final fight was part of what was supposed to be Boise’s biggest boxing card ever in July, 2006, at Qwest Arena. He was hoping to wrap it up with a matchup against Thomas Hearns, but the opponent would be “King” Arthur Williams. It was the leadup event to a bout between Roy Jones Jr. and Prince Badi Ajamu (won by Jones in a 12-round unanimous decision). Keene, coming off a TKO of John Long a couple months earlier, suffered a 10th-round TKO himself when he was kept at bay by Williams’ long reach. Kenny walked away with a couple of broken ribs, and that was it. It also effectively marked the end of the Boise boxing scene.

The “Emmett Eliminator” posted a career record of 51 wins and four defeats with 28 knockouts. His first professional bout was held in 1990 at the Boise Hawks’ Memorial Stadium, a four-round decision over Ray Pacheco of Albuquerque. Undefeated three years into his pro career, Keene took on Arkansas’ Bobby Crabtree for the WBF Cruiserweight championship at O’Connor Fieldhouse. Keene won and staged four successful title defenses. He finally took his first loss in a 1995 rematch with Crabtree at the latter’s “home ring” in Fort Smith, AR.

By 1997, Keene had a second belt via the IBC Cruiserwight title. He defended it on the undercard of a Sugar Ray Leonard-Hector “Macho” Camacho bout and lost to Robert Daniels in a split decision. But Keene would nail a third crown in 1998 when we won the IBA cruiserweight championship. Boxing did take a toll on Keene, though. In a 2017 KTVB story, he said he had absorbed 100,000 blows to the head over his career. Keene battled depression and neurological problems before a psychological rehab program at Saint Alphonsus brought him out of it. Kenny Keene…55 years old today.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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