Pattern of violence 

Amateur boxers charged in street assaults

Despite assurances from Missoula police, who say they see no pattern in Missoula's recent spate of high-profile and apparently unprovoked assaults, more than half the young men facing charges in three recent beatings held boxing licenses with the state of Montana and boxed at Wednesday fight nights at the Wilma Theatre last season, according to state and club boxing records.

The first widely reported attack occurred Aug. 5, when Sam Riddle, a former University of Montana basketball player, was beaten up at a Lewis and Clark Village apartment after celebrating his 25th birthday with his sister and her boyfriend at Stockman's Bar. Three of the five men charged in the burglary and assault, which broke Riddle's jaw in four places, held boxing licenses and boxed at the Wilma last year. One is also a member of Missoula's Dog Pound Submission Fighting Academy and fought in the Montana Caged Combat event last July.

Then, Sept. 18, Mila Gergen and Ryan Knight, both 17, allegedly attacked Ben Corbett, 25, breaking his skull and causing brain damage, at the corner of Broadway and Ryman Street. Corbett's friend Tyler Drake, of Seeley, was beaten unconscious when he tried to help. Gergen held a boxing license with the state last season and boxed at the Wilma.

Most recently, the Oct. 15 beating of University of Montana students Wally Catton and Marcus Chebul, both 21, on Higgins Avenue left Catton with a broken jaw, a tripod fracture to his cheekbone and a mild concussion. At least two of the four men charged in the assault held boxing licenses with the state and fought at the Wilma last year.

"That's part of life, people fight in the street and then they go to jail," says Russ Hansen, who runs Missoula club boxing. "But they won't climb in our ring."

Missoula police say they haven't noted a spike in the number of assaults in Missoula-which average 15 to 25 a week-and are not investigating the fights as gang activity. Detective Guy Baker, who oversees the gang unit for the police, says he's aware of the boxing connections, but doesn't regard the fact as relevant.

"Unfortunately, sometimes people like to fight in our society," he says.

•••

Lloyd Woodard, 20, one of the men facing burglary and accountability to aggravated assault charges in the Riddle beating, is a regionally known competitor in mixed martial arts contests, which combine boxing with wrestling and martial arts.

Numerous MMA websites feature text and photographs describing Woodard's prowess as a fighter. He fought and won at the Montana Caged Combat event in July for Dog Pound Submission Fighting Academy, a club currently operating out of the Missoula Black Belt Academy on Third Street and Higgins Avenue.

Woodard and Krin Kuethe, 20, are listed as "Donkey Kid" and "Donkey Killer," respectively, on the Missoula club boxing website. Pedro Sosa is identified by the nickname "The Meat." All are charged in the Riddle assault.

"Woodard was one of my top guys, but I'm not going to let him fight now," Hansen told the Independent.

Woodard's trainer, Matt Powers, head coach at the Dog Pound, says Woodard gets two offers to cage fight a month, but, "Until all this is said and done, I won't book him any fights."

"If someone's involved in an altercation, they're usually kept off the mat for a month," Powers says. Even though Woodard was at the scene of the Riddle assault, police reports indicate he didn't throw a punch. That's why, Powers says, he continues to let Woodard work out with the Dog Pound.

Kuethe fought at club boxing in December 2004 and is charged with accountability to aggravated assault and burglary in the Riddle beating. He was additionally convicted of an unrelated misdemeanor assault in May and ticketed for yet another, on UM junior Luke Altenhofen, 21, in July.

Pedro Sosa Jr., accused of beating Riddle with the butt of a handgun, held a club boxing license with the state and fought at the Wilma in December 2004.

•••

Erin Corbett was celebrating her brother-in-law Ben's upcoming move to Missoula to become a cop when four men drove up and approached the group, she says.

One of the young men asked Ben Corbett what kind of car he drove. Corbett said, "a truck." The teen asked if Ben was making fun of him for driving a car.

The next thing she knew Corbett was unconscious from a one-punch knockout.

"Psychologically, it seems premeditated, like these guys were out looking for a fight, and Ben was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," she says.

Ryan Knight, who along with Mila Gergen is accused of beating Corbett, has been twice charged with assault in the past 14 months, including an alleged March 26, 2005 attack on Zach Winn, a Sentinel High School junior.

Based on the extent of his son's injuries, Corbett's father Pat, an anesthetist in Ellensburg, Wash., thinks the perpetrators knew what they were doing.

"They are boxers," Pat Corbett said in a telephone interview. "They wanted to fight somebody that night, and they just chose these two guys for some reason."

•••

Joshua Keith, aka Joshua Lamp, 19, one of the young men charged in the October assault of Catton and Chebul, holds a boxing license with the state and fought at least five club boxing matches last season. He has known Gergen and Knight for about two years, he told the Independent, and is acquainted with Kuethe and Woodard from boxing.

Keith's friends James "Joby" Steven Kelly, 18, also a boxer, and Brian David Gunderson, 19, face felony charges for the beating of Chebul and Catton. Both are charged with felony aggravated assault, and Gunderson is additionally charged with robbery.

Keith says Kelly has minimal live boxing experience, but trains with Keith and a group of friends. Kelly held a boxing license for last season's Wilma fights.

Keith told the Independent he planned to fight at last week's club boxing match, but he never made it into the ring. Russ Hansen says he turned Keith away at Tuesday's weigh-in.

news@missoulanews.com

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