The road back into the cage had been a long time coming for Travis "The Terror" Clark.
He hadn't fought since losing the North American Allied Fight Series title belt in April of 2012.
It didn't take him long to shake off the rust as he knocked out Dominque "Non-Stop Action Packed" Steele in just 70 seconds of the first round last Saturday night in Caged Vengeance 13 inside the Stark County Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall in Canton.
"It felt absolutely wonderful," Clark (7-1) said in a recent telephone interview. "I put a lot of work and a lot of time in for that fight, and it all paid off.
"The last year or so hasn't been real kind to me," he continued. "Not only did I lose my mother, but I also lost a couple of dear friends, as well as two knee injuries."
According to Clark, Steele tried to get a little cocky prior to the start of the fight. As the two fighters entered the octagon, Steele was laughing and joking around, and then he made the mistake of bumping into "The Terror."
"That was it," Clark said. "I'd had enough. He was acting like an idiot and then he got in my face and I shoved him."
After order was restored and the bell rung, the two became entangled near the middle of the cage before working their way near one side. When Clark came off the cage he said he landed a "big" right hand to Steele's head which sent him crashing to the canvas.
Not satisfied, Clark gave him a couple of more shots.
"I dropped down on him and gave him one or two more for good measure before the referee stepped in and stopped the fight," Clark recalled.
It was only the second time that Steele, from Cincinnati, had been stopped in a match. He is now 6-4.
"It felt like I was back home again," Clark admitted to being back inside the 8-sided cage. "I stayed focused and executed my game plan."
Clark said the most meaningful thing to him following the win was what he was finally able to tell his late mother.
"In her last few days, she would always ask me if I won my fight," he said. "Now, I can finally tell her I did."
According to Clark on Tuesday, he was supposed to box on the Roy Jones Jr. TNT Promotions card inside "The Harv" at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester on Saturday night, but his opponent "backed out."
However, after being "bummed out" for a day-and-a-half, Clark called Thursday and said he has a bout with Martez Williamson on the very same card.
"I'm extremely happy," he said. "I just want to fight. I don't care where it is or who it is. It doesn't matter."
The 28-year-old Williamson is 1-0 as a pro, winning a 4-round unanimous decision over Sean Conroy.
"I'm ready," Clark said. "I haven't had much time in between fights, but I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. I'd sword fight if I had to."
The main event on the card has former IBF and IBC World Champion Paul "The Pittsburgh Kid" Spadafora meeting former WBC Champion "Red Hot" Rob Frankel (32-12-1, 6 KO), of Denver, for the NABF Super Lightweight Championship.
Spadafora is a very impressive 47-0-1 and will be looking to get back into the world's Top 5 of the Junior Welterweight Division. In his last action, Spadafora earned a unanimous decision over top contender Solomon Egberime in December.
After five pro fights - three mixed martial arts and two boxing - Holt has yet to experience defeat. He will try to keep that streak alive.
Holt is currently training at Tom Yankello's World Class Boxing Gym in Ambridge, Pa. Yankello, best known for his work with former pound-for-pound great Roy Jones Jr., has a stable of fighters from the area which has allowed all involved to fight frequently at Mountaineer, Rivers Casino and other Pittsburgh area venues.
Holt was originally scheduled to fight against Wheeling's Bruce Runkle in what was being hyped as a "Border War." However, Runkle pulled out of the fight in mid-March, forcing Holt to find a new opponent.
A replacement was found in Austin Marcum (4-2, 2 KO), another West Virginia fighter.
"We weren't really worried about our opponent anyway," Holt said. "Runkle was a taller fighter so I was sparring with some tall guys, but we're focused on what we're doing."
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org