While Denise Moraetes will be the local headliner for the Feb. 27 "Fight Night at the Fort" boxing card at Fort Gordon, Elvir Muriqi may be the event's story.
Muriqi is a 19-year-old super middleweight phenom who fights not for himself, but for his family and for war-torn Kosovo.
The "Kosovo Kid," as local New York City trainers have dubbed him since he and his family emigrated to the United States in 1996, turned a competitive kickboxing career into a New York Golden Gloves title in two years.
Muriqi swept through the preliminary bouts, then displayed such promise by winning the final that HBO boxing analyst Gil Clancy called Muriqi "the best prospect I've seen in years."
In his first professional fight, Muriqi's red satin robe sported an Albanian flag that signified Serbian rule. The Kosovo refugee went into a rage, demanding to conceal the tiny mistake noticeable only to those involved.
In January, Muriqi's family returned to Serbia to join the Kosovo Liberation Army and fight in the current civil war.
"He went back to Kosovo because he had to," Muriqi said of his father Rumz in the New York Daily News. "He wants to die over there. If I wasn't boxing, I'd be there."
Instead, Muriqi, trained by former Michael Moorer and Mike Tyson trainer Teddy Atlas, will make his fourth professional fight next Saturday when the 11-bout card begins at 8 p.m., in Fort Gordon's Gym 1. Muriqi's opponent will be Keith Williams of Richmond, Va.
Muriqi's career has endured somewhat of a setback when he tore a finger ligament in his right hand after his second fight. A minor hurdle for a man with much more on his mind.
Meanwhile, undefeated Moraetes, the Goshen elementary school teacher and two-time national amateur women's champion, will fight Charlotte's Gwen Smith in a six-round bout.
The card is the first professional fighting ever on base and features other Augustans Poncho Carter, Darrell Morgan and Stacy Williams and Aiken's Thomas "Hot Dog" Williams.
Also making his professional debut next week is light heavyweight Dominic Robinson-Neal, a sergeant 1st Class in F Company-369 at Fort Gordon. Robinson-Neal has boxed as an amateur in Korea and at Fort Gordon.