Rumble in the Bear Paws
Havre Daily News/Zach White
Jamie Sangrey, left, grapples with Arnold Sisneros while Channing Demontiney referees, during the July 9 Brawl in the Bear Paws Mixed Martial Arts event.
The latest Brawl in the Bear Paws, going down in the gym of the former Stone Child College building on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, is only a day away. The event is scheduled to start at 3 p. m. Saturday, in the middle of the biggest weekend of the year for the reservation, the Rocky Boy Pow-wow. It has been a long time coming for the boxers and mixed -martial arts fighters, but especially for the event's organizer and promoter, Channing Demontiney.
Demontiney got his first taste of fighting as a kid, doing some basic training, but unable to compete because of financial constraints.
"I never really had a chance to go and fight because I grew up poor, " Demontiney said. "My grandma never had money to help get me out anywhere. So I kind of gave up. "
It wasn't until years later, when he moved to Missoula to go to school, that he got his first taste of the ring, in a series of amateur fights called Club Boxing that were popping up in Montana's major cities at the time.
After one of those fights, an impressed manager from Billings approached Demontiney and offered him some professional gigs, starting at a casino in Tacoma, Wash.
He won that fight, but lost the next three, then boxed less and less frequently until he eventually quit competing.
"I sort of gave up on it because I wasn't as on the professional level as I thought I was, " Demontiney said. "Tough will only take you so far, but being dedicated is different. "
Though his discouragement was a big part of his exit from the sport, another contributor was a second hobby he had picked up in Missoula.
"When I first moved to Missoula I was going to school, and I started raising hell because I was on my own, " Demontiney said. "I was an alcoholic back then.
"I thought of my family seldomly because I was a selfish person. Most alcoholics are selfish, where it's all about them and their next drink. "
When he quit fighting, he started thinking about promoting fights and organized the first ones four or five years ago.
He began collecting what he could and borrowing what he couldn't to make the events happen.
"I borrowed two gloves, " Demontiney said. "I borrowed a ring from my friend … in Browning, so I had to drive all the way to Browning with a trailer with no lights. "
Since those first two fights, the organization slowly got a little easier as he planned events at Northern Winz Casino and at the Havre Ice Dome.
After years of boxing and promoting boxing events, it was at the Ice Dome that he first hosted a mixed martial arts fight.
"Everybody was anxious to see that match because MMA was pretty new around here, " Demontiney said. "It got started, bout after bout, then it came to the MMA match and everybody just rushed, 'to hell with the general admission. '
"It was exciting. I thought this is something I could work around with. "
He was only able to get one more fight off the ground after that before his other habit caught up with him.
Last summer, Demontiney was convicted of his fourth charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.
He was ordered to six months in the Department of Corrections' Warm Springs Addictions Treatment and Change program, from July 2010 until January this year.
He described the rehabilitation program as boot camp-like, enforcing strict discipline and making participants face their problems and the consequences.
It was difficult at the time, but Demontiney said he came out of the program as a new man.
"It opened my eyes, " Demontiney said. "It's a damn shame I had to learn that way, by going away from my family for that long. I can't say enough good things about that thing, because it sucks that I had to go there, but it helped me out. It changed my life. It helped me be the kind of person I am right now. Ever since I came back people respect me more. "
He came out motivated and quickly got back to promoting.
The first fight was on May 28 and the house was packed.
"It was packed all the way down, " Demontiney said. "The bleachers just looked like a whole bunch of faces. People were standing in the aisles. "
The next fight, a little less attended, happened a little more than a month later, on July 9.
Now his latest event is set right in the middle of the powwow, for the crowds that are from or have come to the reservation for the annual celebration.
He plans on slowing down a little after this weekend, as he heads back to school, pursuing a degree in addiction counseling at Stone Child College in the fall, but hopes to have at least one fight, maybe around Halloween.
For Demontiney, the fights are not just for their own sake. He is trying to help people with the funds.
He gives the Boys & Girls Club of Rocky Boy a few hundred dollars for letting him hold his event there, which they augment with funds from a concession stand they operate and a 50/50 drawing.
He gives some of his money to friends he has who recently found out they have cancer and is considering establishing a scholarship fund.
"What I've done right now is kind of dedicate myself to helping people out who really need it, " Demontiney said. "They can use donations instead of stuff I could be doing, like buy shoes or get Bresnan or something (for myself). I don't know. I can make better use of my money and that's what I'm doing. "
If the event can raise enough money, he does take some home, since each event is fueled by his own funds and effort, a sacrifice appreciated by the fighters who use the opportunity.
"He puts a lot of his own time and money into this, " Arnold Sisneros, a fellow Rocky Boy fighter, said. "God bless his soul, because I wouldn't have the resources like that to get a hold of everybody, putting everything together. He's doing this all on his own. "
Demontiney attributes part of the success to the support of his family, including his fiancee, who works with him to budget and organize the events.
The fights aren't just something that he wants to do; they also help him keep clean.
"That's not hard to do when you keep yourself busy, " Demontiney said. "It's just when you find yourself not doing anything, that's when you tend to be like, 'maybe I can have a beer here and there, ' and that's what screws you up. "
Fighting doesn't just fill that role for Demoontiney but for his fighters as well.
Mike Eagleman will be making his debut at Saturday's fight. Born and raised on Rocky Boy, Eagleman just turned 21 years old on Wednesday and did not go out for the usual festivities that happen on such an occasion.
"I'm really concentrating on this fight, " Eagleman said. "It's going to be my debut. I want it to mean something. "
Without fighting, Eagleman said, it would be difficult to avoid the pitfalls of modern reservation life to which many others fall prey.
"There's not really much else out there. You can't really do nothing besides play ball and sit around and talk with friends. That's basically it. If you're not playing ball you're doing drugs. This fighting, this training, it's gotten me motivated. I haven't thought about smoking weed, drinking beer, nothing but fighting. That's it. It's a total motivation for me. "
Sisneros, at 5 feet 7 inches, proved that size wasn't everything when he won his debut fight on July 9. He enjoys the opportunity in the brawl to disprove the doubters and to entertain.
"This is pretty much the biggest fight of my life, " Sisneros said. "We got the Rocky Boy Pow-Wow out there. Every Native I know is going to be out there. I just want to put on a good show for them. "
Jason Duffy is one of the only fighters in the line-up not originally from Montana. He came to Havre two years ago, having grown up in California with his father, Rick Duffy, who runs a karate dojo and trains fighters.
For Duffy, one of the most important parts of the event, that separates the ring from the alleys or parking lots, is the respect.
"I like the respect you have for a person whether you won or lost. That shows character. It builds character, " Duffy said. "A lot people don't see that. They see all these street fights and dudes getting mad at each other. "
Demontiney knows the value of respect and knows he has to earn it. It is his hope that, through continuing to help himself, his family and his community, however, he can that he can get that respect back, a pursuit in which he has already seen some progress.
"A lot of people still think about me as the same kind of person I was when I left, knocking people out. My hands are nothing but scar tissue because that's the kind of life I lived. I was a... bad kid, " Demontiney said. "If I keep pumping good things out... they'll understand that I'm not the same kind of person they thought I was. I'd rather show them than have them just believe what they hear. It's working. I've got a lot of people smiling at me more than sucking their teeth at me. "