This Saturday, at two venues 800 miles apart and a world away, three distinctly different men separated by forty years in age will showcase a common thread.
In Baltimore, trainer Art Sherman will try for the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown with California Chrome in the Preakness Stakes on NBC. Two weeks ago in Louisville, the 77 year old Sherman became the oldest trainer of a Kentucky Derby winner. Adding to his amazing tell, as a teenager in 1955, he rode on a train with the outstanding racehorse Swaps from California to Kentucky, as the exercise rider for the eventually Derby champion. Art himself would wait another 59 years before returning to Churchill Downs with another Derby contender. What a moment it was, not the obvious joy of winning the world’s most recognized race, but the manner he handled himself throughout.
There was no gloating, no bemoaning the woulda, coulda, or shoulda over the years. He was the picture of class, honest in his evaluation that while he had trained very good horses in the past, he was never one to court the high rolling clients that spend millions to get a horse to a Triple Crown race. He just kept going about his business, work that was long respected by his peers before he became a “star” on the first Saturday in May. It all came together at last with California Chrome. Now he tries again and it is hard not to cheer for a man who brings so much dignity to his sport, and perseverance.
Hours later, in a Memphis area, two former UFC champs will enter the cage. Two men you might be cheering on for another glimpse of glory past, or you might be cheering against for proof that their past their prime. Quite the contrast of the humbleness of Art, they have thrived on being polarizing. Controversy is as much a part of their game, as big punches and wicked takedowns. Even if you have only casually followed MMA in the past decade, you know Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz. Fight promoter Bellator is counting on that, using this duo as main attractions for their initial foray into the cluttered Pay-Per-View medium.
For Jackson this will be his third fight in the organization, taking on Mo Lowal with the winner advancing to a light heavyweight title shot. After a contentious split from the UFC, Jackson is almost three years removed from losing to champ Jon Jones. “Rampage” has shown signs he is indeed back with consecutive victories. Though not at his highest level, the 35 year old hasn’t looked far from peak condition. He is motivated more by those who think that he is, exactly what perseverance is about.
Ortiz, 39, was supposed to fight Jackson last year, but another injury sidelined not only that fight, but what was to be the first PPV for Bellator, such is the belief in his drawing power. Back and neck surgeries, rehabilitation, and high profile domestic woes have put Ortiz in the news as much as his fights. But a decade after losing his light heavyweight title to Randy Couture at UFC 44, he is still viable. He was viable to the UFC up until the end, even stepping in at the last moment to save the day when they needed a “name” on the card. He too, though in their Hall of Fame, departed the UFC with plenty of raw nerves on each side almost two years back. His fight with Alexander Schlemenko will be his first since losing to Forrest Griffin at UFC 148. Physically battered, emotionally tried over time, Ortiz is showing there is still time on his fight schedule, a testament to literally fighting on, and perseverance.
Maybe it will be the perfect way to perpetuate their stories, all coming out with wins this Saturday. Whatever the outcome, the fact that they are still here, counts for so much.
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